The Blame Game Edition

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May 3, 2016


The Blame Game Edition


The Blame Game Edition

Image courtesy of Richard Yarrow/The Telegraph

Almost every day it seems that autonomous cars are in the news. Laws, responsibility and liability, advancements in tech and how these topics affect the vehicle landscape are a weighty part of car conversation. Naturally, the proliferation of autonomous cars is becoming more a part of the larger conversation.

Consider Warren Buffett’s comments on CNBC’s SquawkBox where he said the autonomous car would be bad for the auto insurance industry:

Mr. Buffett points out that the auto insurance industry has always championed auto safety, but that the future of fully autonomous cars will definitely change the game.  And he’s right. Here’s why: If accidents reduce in numbers as predicted, why have insurance? But also, and this is a large issue regarding autonomous cars, if two fully autonomous vehicles crash, who is liable?

Under existing laws, the driver for the vehicle found at fault would be liable for damages. Old way: you hit me you pay; I hit you I pay. But in the world of autonomous cars where humans don’t have any control over the vehicle—L4 the government calls it—and therefore no part in an accident, why should drivers be held liable for an equipment malfunction, which is essentially what an accident between two fully autonomous vehicles would be?

If the manufacturers take responsibility and are liable for accidents since they programmed the vehicles, then why does the average driver need to carry insurance?  They don’t, which is where Mr. Buffett’s forecast about the auto insurance industry comes in.  But I want to ask one more question.  If automakers are going to be held liable for malfunctions in their vehicles, does that change the concept of ownership?

I don’t have the answer for the ownership question, but as the article states, liability is a barrier to widespread rapid implementation of autonomous vehicles. In other words, it’s a blame game.  Whose car? Whose fault?

I think we still have a long way to go before L4 vehicles take the road and the liability issues are a major obstacle. Another obstacle will be changing laws, which is another discussion for another time, perhaps.

But what do you think?

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My Final Thought:

While we are on the subject of self-driving cars, you should be aware of this:

ISIS is trying to develop bombs for autonomous vehicles, NATO says.  This is interesting, don’t you think?

And people said, “pshaw, terrorists couldn’t do that.”  Right.

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Love Your Car! See you next week!

–Lauren Fix

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