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Who Is Liable If an Autonomous Vehicle Kills or Injures Someone?

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The Social Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars

Self-Driving Cars: Present and Future

The first proposed federal law governing self-driving cars is meeting resistance from local government as a possible overreach of federal powers. The federal bill would set a national standard of regulation for self-driving cars, barring local government from enacting more prohibitions on self-driving cars.

Critics say the vague language could lead the industry to sue states over any regulations they consider overly burdensome.

“If Congress preempts state and local governments from enacting smart safety protections, the adoption of this amazing technology could be unnecessarily delayed by court challenges and state legislative action,” said Leah Treat, Director of the Transportation Bureau in Portland, Oregon, according to Reuters.

Should autonomous cars be programmed to prioritize the needs of the many over the few?

Should autonomous cars be programmed to prioritize the needs of the many over the few?

A Moral Dilemma

Currently, a driverless car is considered legally the same as a human driver. But what does that mean? Google's software, not the human passenger, is considered to be the "driver."

A precedent of the federal court's decision perhaps stemmed from the Toyota case of unintended acceleration that resulted in a class action lawsuit where existing product liability regulations were able to sort who or what is at fault. Strict liability means no matter if meatware, software, or hardware, you the person in the car is first in liability before all other considerations because car accident victims are not expected to go after a manufacturer for recompense.

What if a driverless auto was requested to drive during a snowstorm because the parent needs to pick up their child at a school that is closing early due to weather conditions? Does the car refuse to even start, leaving the child stranded at school? Volvo and Google have stated that California and Nevada, the only two states that allow driverless cars on public highways, will accept liability unless the commuter used the automation improperly, such as overriding safety devices.

License and registration, please!

License and registration, please!

Car Bots Not Ready for Autopilot

Car bots have five times more accidents than regular cars, but the manufacturers say the bots weren't at fault. They say the bots were operating under the assumption that the other vehicles would slow down for them in order to avoid a collision. Isn't that an all too human excuse?

“Officer, I swerved five times because I was trying to avoid hitting that tree that jumped in front of me.”

The "trolley problem" is an ethical thought experiment

The "trolley problem" is an ethical thought experiment

The Trolley Problem

We Need a Catchier Name

The name we give to what I call "car bots" will probably sound as quaint and antiquated in the future as "horseless carriages" sound to us today.

Driverless car, self-driving car, automated car, autonomous vehicle, and robotic vehicle all sound so clunky—and auto-auto is not that much better. Please comment below on what you think would be a short, easy name for these cars of the future.

Thank you for reading my article.

Further Reading

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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