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When A Driverless Car Crashes, Who Is to Blame?

New Report Examines Safety and Liability Issues as Driverless Cars Hit the Roads

February 07,2017

Washington, DC— Driverless vehicles, or robot cars, are already on the roads, but many proposals to ensure safety and accountability would in fact give robot car manufacturers legal immunity for injuries caused by their products, a new report from the American Association for Justice warns.

Driven to Safety: Robot Cars and the Future of Liability outlines potential safety gaps that could place the public at risk, and tells how robot car manufacturers are pushing for measures that will allow them to avoid accountability when their products injure or kill people. The report, released today, recommends policies to ensure that the civil justice system, rather than regulators, legislators, or the industry itself, serves as the primary forum for determining safety requirements and liability for failing to protect the public.

“Every time a new auto technology has been introduced, the civil justice system has played a key role in ensuring its safety,” said AAJ President Julie Braman Kane. “Robot cars show tremendous promise for saving lives, but policymakers must ensure that when a robot car crashes, the injured, the families of those killed, or taxpayers don’t get stuck with the bill for the manufacturer’s failing.”

The civil justice system has served as the most consistent and powerful force in heightening auto safety standards, the report says. It has uncovered concealed defects, such as the deadly GM ignition switch, and deterred manufacturers from cutting corners on safety. Because of civil liability, car makers have adopted now-ubiquitous safety features such as airbags and electronic stability control.

“Robot car technology needs to be monitored by the courts to ensure it is safe and that anyone harmed isn’t left in an accountability vacuum,” said David Ratcliff, AAJ Researcher and co-author of the report. “Policymakers need to let the legal system work to protect the public as this technology develops.”

Click here to download the report.

Ben Somberg
Phone: 202-965-6645