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Self-driving cars: where does the liability lie?

Here’s an interesting topic to consider: self-driving cars. It may seem like a concept out of a futuristic movie, but as many of us know, it’s something that is quickly becoming a reality. It may not be commonplace to see a self-driving car right now, but they are out there.

These types of cars definitely change the liability playing field a bit. Once these types of cars become more common, who would be liable for an accident? Would it be more difficult to find fault or perhaps a lot easier since the cars’ movements are determined by sensors and a computer? If a self-driving car causes an accident, can we sue the driver or the maker of the car?

Google is at the forefront of these types of cars. They have quite a few cars out on the streets being tested. Currently there are two dozen Lexus SUVs out on the roads that have cameras and sensors on them. Although these cars have been involved in a handful of accidents, most of them involved the Google car being rear-ended. And it doesn’t appear that any serious injuries were involved.

But Valentine’s Day may have brought a new incident: it may have been the first accident where a Google car was at fault. It wasn’t anything serious – the Google car was apparently moving at 2 mph when it hit a bus that was moving at 15 mph. The Google car was apparently trying to get around sandbags that were in the street and hit the right side of the bus. There was a driver in the car, as mandated by law, but the driver thought the bus was going to yield. The driver also did not have control of the car when the accident happened.

It will be interesting to see what kind of progress these types of cars make and whether laws will have to change in order to take these new vehicles into account.

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