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The Liability Questions of Self Driving Cars

In the modern age, many new questions about liability arise as new innovations are introduced into society. For example, while publicity is spreading about Google's self driving cars, it leaves many wondering: who is liable in the event of an accident? These test cars have been in 11 accidents in the last 6 years while Google has been testing the project, over the course of 1.7 million miles. Google has asserted that none of the accidents were the fault of the self driving car, but were due to human error. The Department of Motor Vehicles in California, where the cars are being tested, has refused to release any details about the accidents, due to confidentiality laws in the state. According to Google, the accidents resulted in only minor scratches to the vehicles involved and no injuries.

There are currently 48 cars outfitted to self drive. The self driving cars are legal on the roads of California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. according to recent legislation passed in these states. New Jersey is also considering legislation.

While the cars are still being developed and tested, there are still numerous legal questions to be considered. The self driving cars raise issues associated with DWI, such as whether you are liable for impaired driving if you merely program the vehicle, but are not driving it. Additionally, who is liable if the car hits another car? Or a person? How will licenses be issued? Will these cars be governed by state vehicle and traffic laws, or the federal government? And, not to mention the privacy rights that are involved with an onboard computer system that stores information regarding your whereabouts.

Many of the answers to these questions seem to be unclear. However, it is likely that an accident would be a matter of product liability, rather than personal liability, depending on the circumstances. Currently, in California, an individual or company has to purchase a $5 million dollar insurance policy to drive one of these cars. One point that has been raised is that the cars do not possess the instincts that a well trained driver would possess. For example, if a person runs across the street, a well trained driver would be able to make a judgment call. A self driving car might not.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident (self driving or not), contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you of your rights and remedies. Call the attorneys at Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP at (212) 571-7171.

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