With further automation on the horizon we can anticipate a future that converges human and artificial intelligence in society. One area seeing rapid developments that will impact the way our lives is the phenomenon of cars without drivers.
In the realm of road traffic accidents and the future of legal claims one question may be posed:
What do we do when there is no human involved?
In most instances road traffic accidents are the result of human error, this is primarily due to distractions whilst driving. However, as the BBC reports, a driverless car industry is racing towards us and bold government plans could see this in play as early as 2021. One prediction believes that by 2035 we could see 21 million examples of automated vehicle technology (AVT) on our roads. Generally it is the aim of this technology to improve road safety, but where do road traffic accident claims go when this is not the case.
The Debate: Accidents happen but who do we blame?
As news broke out earlier this year of a US women becoming the first fatal accident at the hands (or lack of) of Uber’s self-driving car the question of liability enters the conversation.
Does the absence of human involvement equate to the absence of human accountability?
So who’s to blame: Vehicle manufacturer? Manufacturer of specific components? Software engineer?
In most instances of car accidents blame is placed with the drivers, so following this logic, when no driver is present this responsibility naturally shifts to the manufacturer.
In cases that are solely AVT, manufactures will be held to a higher degree of accountability. Some manufactures welcome this, like Volvo who led with a bold statement in 2015 that pledged to accept 100% liability in a collision of self-driving cars.
Notably, widespread usage of driverless cars could see the shift from mobile liability to product liability. This brings its own complexities with insurance and legislation which could include more potential defendants for claimants to prove their case to.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are seeking clearer answers to this and debate the possibility of expanding upon existing motor insurance policies or bringing about change to existing procedures.
While it is difficult to know with certainty the future of legalisation for driverless cars as this requires mutual cooperation from manufactures and insurance companies in the claims process. What can be said on the issue is that clients will remain the focus of road traffic accident and injury claims.
By Shaan Raju