Autonomous vehicles will soon be regularly driving through the streets of major cities. By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 10 million vehicles will be on the road with some level of driverless capacity. Who will be responsible when a collision or other accident occurs involving one or more automated vehicles?
Most drivers today rely on automobile liability insurance to pay for damages if they cause a collision. If computers are operating your vehicle do you still need to worry about being held responsible for a crash?
The National Highway Safety Administration has identified five levels of an automated driving system. Levels 0 – 2 involve a human driver that monitors the road; Levels 3 – 5 involve an automated driving system that monitors the road. The levels breakdown as follows:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has reported that the widespread use of automated vehicles is likely to reduce crash rates by more than 50%. The argument in favor of the technology is that these cars could save lives by eliminating human error. However, the role of fault in a collision would likely no longer automatically fall to those humans in the vehicle. Should the blame be shifted to the manufacturers and software engineers that created the driverless vehicles? Will insurance companies refuse to pay claims involving driverless vehicles?
Regardless of the manufacturers position, liability laws are likely to change as more accidents involve only computers.
By Beth Cole