Legal liability concerns arise when self-driving cars are used, as they put the public’s trust at risk.


As a seasoned lawyer with over 20 years of experience litigating accident claims, I approach autonomous vehicles driving on public roads with a measured skepticism. The premature release of immature technology that lacks strict safeguards raises serious and unanswered questions about liability.

The current state of the self-driving car technology, also known as autonomous vehicles, has not instilled me with the confidence I need to completely entrust my personal safety to a driverless vehicle. I am adamant that I would never voluntarily drive an autonomous vehicle without having a human at the wheel.

PPC for Legal

If an autonomous vehicle causes an injury to a person, and this person becomes your client, you will need to decide who to sue. Which is the most likely party to be sued: the manufacturer of a vehicle, the software developer or both?  Could it be the person who owns the car for not downloading the most recent update, or even the last service center that interacted with driving system? The list of possible finger-pointing is endless.

We must also consider what causes such an action would be, would it be negligence or product responsibility?

Determining the cause for legal action raises additional questions—negligence or product liability? Recent incidents in Texas and California that led to the suspension of pilot programs highlight the inadequacy in protecting passengers and other motorists. While autonomous driving innovation has long-term potentials, it is important to maintain a balance between progress and ethical accountability in the interim.

Injury RX

Self-driving vehicles on crowded urban roads will only result in unavoidable accidents today for some speculative benefit tomorrow. Developers have made impressive progress in teaching sensors and automaton to handle predictable environments. However, we cannot be blinded by the fact that driving involves dealing with unpredictable scenarios and chaotic variables.

Cruise should improve their protocols for oversight before they continue to test open roads on unknowing populations.

In an industry that aims to improve mobility safety by allowing collisions to occur during road testing, this undermines the public’s trust on a short- and long-term basis. Safety and lives matter much more than being the first on the market.

On the road to an autonomous future, manufacturers will also be exposed to a growing amount of legal risk. In the absence of a negligent human driver, victims in crashes involving driverless vehicles will file strict product liability lawsuits against automakers and software developers directly. It has yet to be determined whether the courts will explore reasonable benchmarks regarding safety requirements for autonomous vehicles.

Computer Forensics

This issue cannot be ignored for long, given that self-driving vehicles share the road with human-operated vehicles. Without regulatory guidance on the baseline standards, future juries might set unrealistic levels of “defectiveness”, hindering sustained economic innovation.

Class action litigation stemming from documented cases of software glitches and sensor failures is a logical way to establish reasonable manufacturer accountability. However, it still leaves individual victims fighting corporate legal armies that have vast resources.

The federal and state governments are grappling with the issue of harmonizing risk-management regulations without affecting research and development. Inadequate safeguards may permanently damage public confidence in the maturity of the technology if there are accidents.

Collaboration between developers, governments and other stakeholders in the design of consistent safety guidelines is a reasonable way to ensure responsible oversight and measureable advancement.

Conflicting regulations from state to state in terms of governing, testing and deployment protocols are something I see approaching quickly.  This could allow for legal forum shopping in the absence of federal standards and guidelines.

If autonomous driving technology is created and regulated responsibly, it holds great promise for a future that will transform transportation safety to the benefit of society. Realizing this potential requires patience and dedication across public and private sectors, acting responsibly through evidence-based, incremental steps—not arbitrary timetables or quotas aimed at meeting shareholder expectations.

Let’s commit ourselves to prioritizing human life throughout this transitional time. While self-driving cars may pave the path to a new exciting era of mobility in the future, without vigilant prudence built into the emerging eco-system, we risk swerving horribly off course. Drive safely – your loved ones love you.


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