Automakers Still Have No Idea Who Will Be Liable For Robo-Car Crashes

Good news, for people who hate driving, but still want to get around in a car. Accident liability, one of the main problems with autonomous cars, is being considered. Right now, the best idea seems to be "???"

One of the biggest hurdles for autonomous vehicles is not the navigational technology, the driving technology, or really any technology at all. The tech is already here, but one of the main reasons why you might never be able to buy a robo-car is because no one knows who will pay for the results of a crash. And furthermore, who you sue when your car inevitably drives you into a wall, just like you would normally.


Elmar Degenhart, a man with a sweet name who happens to be CEO of OEM supplier and tire company Continental, said that only now is the industry beginning to consider who's going to have to pay out when you run over a poor old lady's leg, according to the Financial Times:

"Who is liable when during partly or fully-autonomous driving the responsibility for what the car does is transferred from the driver to the car. Who is liable for the vehicle: is it the manufacturer, a neutral institution, or . . . [the part] supplier?" Mr Degenhart asked.

(Hint, for Mr. Degenhart: errbody's gonna get sued on this one.)

The main idea that's being bandied about right now is a trust fund, set up by basically everybody involved. It would be modeled on the one already created by the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines that prevent you from getting every disease imaginable. When you get a vaccine, there is a teeny tiny chance that something will go wrong (no, Jenny McCarthy, not that you will catch The Autism, that you'll end up catching measles from the measles vaccine). In order to staunch the flow of lawsuits, the industry has the trust fund that they contribute to, just to make some payouts to settle the cases before they ever come to light.


So when you hit Grandma, the industry will have some money in the bank already stashed to make her go away.

On the other hand, this still doesn't answer the question of insurance. Not only does the idea of autonomous cars piss of insurance companies, because if there's an appreciable decline in collisions, then some people might not find it necessary beyond liability, but because there's also the question of who's going to pay who when two robo-cars collide.


So many questions, and the answers people are starting to get still aren't great.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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