When, in the near future, a driverless car gets into an accident with another driverless car, it’s going to be difficult to establish who is at fault. Is it the “driver,” the car company, or even the programmer?
But what’s not hard to establish is who will likely benefit: lawyers.
“You’re going to get a whole host of new defendants,” Kevin Dean, an attorney suing General Motors over its faulty ignition switches, told Bloomberg. “Computer programmers, computer companies, designers of algorithms, Google, mapping companies, even states. It’s going to be very fertile ground for lawyers.”
Right now, the person with primary responsibility for a car accident is the car owner. But when a robot is driving the car, that is likely going to be hard for car owners to stomach. Someone will challenge those laws in court.
“There’s going to have to be some changes to the laws,” David Strickland, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told Bloomberg. “There is no such thing right now that says the manufacturer of the automated system is financially responsible for crashes.”
And once liability is sorted out, there is the chance that payouts to those injured by robots cars could be bigger than those hit by human-controlled ones. Why? Because the companies that make the driverless cars have a lot more cash than your average driver.
“If you have to be hit by a car, then you should hope that you’re hit by an automated car because you will likely have recourse to a company or companies with far deeper pockets than your average driver, vehicle owner or insurance policy,” law professor Bryant Walker Smith told Bloomberg.
And you can bet the lawyers will be ready.