Driverless cars - who is liable?

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by tekno, May 8, 2012.

  1. tekno macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2011
    So Nevada has granted Google a driverless car licence.

    I never thought this technology would work down to one thing - litigation. If I'm sitting in my automated car and it knocks someone down (for whatever reason), whose fault is it? Mine or Google's?
  2. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

    Feb 2, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    In an emergency you are supposed to take over I guess, so I assume you would be liable for negligence?
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Given Lawyers propensity to sue everyone, we can be sure that they'll include everyone and the court will have set precedent.
  4. tekno thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2011
    So you'd esentially still be driving (ie having to concentrate fully on the road). May as well just drive the car instead.
  5. rhett7660 macrumors G4


    Jan 9, 2008
    Sunny, Southern California
    I think this is pretty cool. After reading the article, 140K miles without an accident is pretty impressive considering how many accidents happen every day.
  6. whooleytoo macrumors 604


    Aug 2, 2002
    Cork, Ireland.
    More to the point, if the car is recording Wifi traffic as it does around, who's responsible for the privacy breach? :p

    I kid.. impressive technology. It does raise some questions about culpability etc.
  7. LorenK macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2007
    Whoever is there to take over in the case of computer failure, and if the owner puts a non-licensed or underage person in there, then the owner, that is, until this gets rolled out big time and the laws change. And don't blame lawyers for lawsuits, can't do it without a plaintiff and a defendant, i.e. a person who claims injury and the person who may have caused the claimed injury.
  8. Antares macrumors 68000


    What about distracted driving laws? If you are in the driver’s seat but the car is in autonomous mode, can you still get a ticket for talking or texting on your cell phone (where there are such laws)? I would lean toward, “no,” since you are not the driver. But I’m still curious what would happen in practice. A cop would need a way of telling if the car is in manual or autonomous mode….a red or other unique license plate would not be enough.

    And what about people who have been drinking? Do the laws apply to them if they were in the driver’s seat but the car was actually driving?

    I’m also curious what insurance rates would be like for autonomous vehicles.

    There’s a lot of interesting questions that could come up from this. Though, I’m really looking forward to a future where we can have more autonomous vehicles in mainstream and every day use. This could really prevent a significant amount of car accidents...from drunk drivers, falling asleep at the wheel, distracted driving, etc.. Not to mention the convenience and ease added for people doing long and/or monotonous driving trips.
  9. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
  10. WRP macrumors 6502a

    Jul 20, 2011
  11. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I would guess that as long as the car is performing correctly, you are not the driver, and ergo can't be fined for simply sitting in the front left seat while texting.

    however, if the car beings to misbehave, and you don't take over due to texting, than you're liable for both texting while driving, as well as not driving safely.

    Like most modern conveniences, you get a free pass until something screws up, then you end up taking the hit doubly.


    You do realize that the car that you drive right now, uses a computer too, right? And NASA spends billions on making very basic programs crash-proof, right? As I see it, it won't be any worse than any other computer driven appliance, like a car, microwave, air conditioner, speakers, or a camera.
  12. WRP macrumors 6502a

    Jul 20, 2011
    You can be charged for drunk driving just sitting in your car with the keys in your pocket.


    #1 - I don't own a car and haven't in over 6 years.
    #2 - The computers in today's cars are no where near sophisticated enough to do this. It's a completely different animal.
    #3 - yeah... computers never have problems...
  13. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

    Jan 30, 2004
    having a drink at Milliways
    this could be great in long trips.

    you drive yourself for some time at regular speed, then you take a nap/break while the car keeps going at reduced speed, and when you are rested you can take over again.
  14. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    City of Angels
    I have a background in AI so I'd love to know how the tech works and what redundancies they use.

    IE if I block out the video cameras or key sensors on the car, what happens.
    If the system maps are outdated, what happens?
    If I try to ram the car with another car, what happens? (It be cool if the car anticipated it and deployed its airbags. Or analyzed the map and figured out the best way to maneuver the car and minimize impact)

    Far as litigation, they'd have to overhaul existing motor vehicle laws. That's the effect of disruptive tech. Kinda like what the internet's been doing to intellectual property laws.

    Anyway, I think once the tech is streamlined cars will actually be safer. There will be malfunctions but in general, I can't imagine a world of automated cars being more dangerous than what we have now, which is people driving half asleep, female drivers looking in their rearview putting on their makeup, tailgaters misjudging their following distance, etc.
  15. WRP macrumors 6502a

    Jul 20, 2011
    Another issue I see is road closures. I had to head from Wyoming to British Columbia. I was new to the west coast. I used google maps to plot out my destination. Little did I know there are tons of roads up there that shut down for the winter even with no snow. I got so hopelessly lost because google maps didn't know about seasonal closures. This was pre iphone days so it may be better at that now, but I still wouldn't trust a computer to transport me safely without having the ability to completely override it. As for the poster saying it would be nice to take a nap while the car drove... they always say it's peaceful to die in your sleep.
  16. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    For that matter would you even need an adult or anyone in the car? Why pick your kids up from school? Just send the car. What if you have maintenance scheduled? Just have the car drop you off at work, head to the repair shop and pick you up at the end of the day.

    Now I'm sure the laws will be more stringent at first. If the technology is proven as reliable or more reliable then human drivers. I see no reason why the cars should not get full driving privileges and liability to the manufacturer.

    Otherwise what would be the point of an automated car which requires you to sit there at full attention to the road. That would make being in the in the drivers seat very boring.
  17. smoledman macrumors 68000

    Oct 17, 2011
    Google cars only work in a very controlled environment. Essentially you need some sort of digital fencing to make this safe. Good luck on digitally fencing the entire American road system.

    Some of us like to race our cars a little and come to sudden stops off curb. How does that fit into the joyless Google paradigm?
  18. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Very accurate GPS + up-to-date maps + Street View data basically gets you there, doesn't it? The test cars have driven over 100,000 miles in NV and CA (including on The Strip in Vegas) so I don't think they require as sanitized environment as you might think.

    Google Cars Drive Themselves, In Traffic is a more detailed article and describes the car driving around town, including getting onto and existing the freeway.

    Easy. Drive the car yourself.

  19. Antares macrumors 68000


    Then, computer controlled mode would only be vailable in specific areas.

    By having the option of switching between manual driver mode and automatic computer controlled mode.

    But like I said, there would need to be some sort of external indicator to alert which mode the car is in.

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