About a month ago, we wrote a post on this blog about self-driving cars, and how Google and Tesla are at the forefront of this endeavor. Autonomous vehicles seem bound to become mainstream, but there are still many questions that need to be asked about how these vehicles function — as well as how these vehicles fit in with current laws.
In that post last month, we referenced a “near accident” that involved two self-driving cars. At that time, Google’s self-driving program had not been involved in an accident that also involved injuries. Oh, how times have changed.
A couple of weeks ago, one of Google’s self-driving cars was involved in an accident, and for the first time it involved injuries. Three people in the self-driving car — all Google employees — suffered injuries in the wreck, though thankfully they were only minor in nature (whiplash).
In addition, the wreck does not appear to be the fault of the self-driving car. It was struck from behind by a car being driven by a person. A negligent, error-prone, silly person. There’s no way that a machine could ever make a mistake… right?
Well, that’s the point of this post. Sure, self-driving cars are almost assuredly going to be safer and better drivers than humans, but that doesn’t mean they will be completely mistake-free. There are plenty of glitches or technical issues that could arise and cause a self-driving car to crash. And in that scenario, how will liability work? There are plenty of things that need to be sorted out before a full roll-out of self-driving cars.
Source: CBS News, “3 Google Employees Injured In Self-Driving Car Accident,” July 17, 2015