In the next few years, the government wants autonomous vehicles – including self-driving lorries – on Britain’s roads. The problem is what happens when there is an accident, as well as how accidents can be stopped when a vehicle is essentially being controlled by a potentially fallible computer.
There have already been a number of incidents and fatalities with self-drive vehicles involved, so how can we be assured that they’re completely safe on our roads? If something does go wrong, how do we nail who is liable between a “driver” who may still be in the seat, and the manufacturer.
In America, a lawsuit has already begun against General Motors (GM) after a biker was involved in an accident with a self-driving vehicle.
During these lengthy testing phases, cases will likely go against the manufacturer who is testing the vehicle, but what about the future real-world accidents?
If an accident occurs, is the driver behind the wheel responsible for failing to take control of a vehicle when something goes wrong, or where the technology misunderstands a situation, or are the vehicle manufacturers solely liable?
What about the insurance position? Surely, with so many potential uncertainties, how are insurers going to agree to indemnify owners of self-drive vehicles? Where they do, are the premiums going to be massive to reflect the unknowns? If they are, is it even going to be economical to have self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads in the next few years?
It seems that the world does not appear to be ready for self-drive vehicles at all.
The automotive manufacturers at the helm of these daring projects say that safety is their primary focus when it comes to testing and development, and its likely that the on-board computers are continually learning from the experiences.
In reality, who is to say this “learning” phase will not go on for years? Where it does, how do we know the data we need is really going to be there?
Presently, there are way too many unknowns. The idea of legislating this is a proverbial headache.
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