Self-driving cars are inevitable. But when human drivers are no longer operating their vehicles, who is to blame if the “self-driving” vehicle is involved in an accident? Google and Mercedes Benz have reportedly already “accept[ed] full liability if their self-driving vehicles cause a collision,” and now, Volvo has followed suit:
Only a few days after unveiling the user interface for its coming IntelliSafe Auto Pilot self-driving system, Volvo’s president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson said the company would ‘accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode.’
What does that mean?
Apparently, Volvo will accept liability “for an accident if it was the result of a flaw in the car’s design.” However, “[i]f the customer used the technology in an inappropriate way then the user is still liable,” and of course, “if a third party vehicle causes the crash, then it would be liable.”
We at Abnormal Use struggle to see how this is different than the current state of the law, in which the manufacturer of a vehicle may be liable for an accident caused by a product defect and the driver of the vehicle may be liable if the driver’s negligence causes the collision. However, these proclamations by autonomous vehicle manufacturers may provide clarity in an otherwise uncertain, uncharted area.