All of the media attention has focused on the “big” technology firms like Uber and their downtown Pittsburg self-driving taxis, the Google self-driven cars all over California, and Tesla with its widely adopted “auto-pilot” program. But, of perhaps greater importance, are self-driven trucks. Large trucks are responsible for a disproportionate number of severe and fatal accidents. It is believed that self-driven trucks or assisted-driven trucks can reduce the strain on truck drivers and reduce accidents.
Otto’s experimental self-driven 18-wheeler semi-truck recently completed a 120-mile journey that ended in Colorado Springs. The truck carried 2,000 cases of Anheuser-Busch beer. While the truck did not navigate on city streets, it did handle all of the highway miles on its own. Significantly, it drove the full 120 highway miles without a human in the cab.
These self-driving vehicle stories are critical because they are challenging legal theories that, in some ways, are centuries old. The law presupposes that a human can be held responsible for the harm to another. The law needs a human to which it can assign responsibility to act reasonably.
Self-driving cars, in theory, will not need humans to operate them. The question thus becomes who is responsible if there is an accident? Yes, technologists claim that a self-driven future will eliminate all accidents. But all you need to do is see the number of hotfixes that Apple needs to issue every time it rolls out an update to its iOS. Imagine those “bugs” but spread across thousands or millions of self-driven vehicles? Even a minor bug could result in accidents.
The law will need to develop to determine who is responsible, be it the owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer of the car or the designer of the software. If you were injured by a self-driven or drive-assisted enabled vehicle, then you may want to contact a personal injury attorney, your injury could have been the result of defective software. A lawyer can help you determine how best to seek recovery.