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Automatic vehicles present liability issues

Many of our readers have probably heard about the growing excitement regarding self-driving or automated cars. As of now, many companies are offering technologies that automate certain vehicle functions, but many manufacturers are also working toward the production of fully automated vehicles as well.

According to a recent report published by ABI Research, cars that are fully automatic will become available by 2020, and by 2032, 10 million fully automated cars will be traveling on American highways and interstates. Interestingly, all the technologies necessary for a fully automatic car are already in place, but there are legal and economic barriers.

As of now, the components necessary for a self-driving car cost over 100,000. It will obviously take time before the price is feasible for putting such cars in the marketplace.

In terms of legislation, there is a need for states to put laws in place outlining responsibilities and allocating liability for piloted driving technology. At present, there are not established standards in many states. Of course, a major concern is what happens when a fully automatic car crashes and injures or kills other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Is it the manufacturer who will be liable, the driver, the insurance company, or some combination depending on the circumstances? All this, of course, will need to be sorted out as this technology begins to be piloted and starts filtering into the marketplace.

Those who are injured in any motor vehicle accident, of course, have the right to be adequately compensated for their losses. While automated driving technology is supposed to drastically reduce crashes, it is not going to be able to completely eradicate all unsafe driving outcomes.

Source: Colorado Daily, “Self-driving cars could be a decade away,” September 5, 2013.