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A radical solution for solving the liability conundrum of autonomous vehicles

Griggs, L ORCID: 0000-0003-3424-1366 2017 , 'A radical solution for solving the liability conundrum of autonomous vehicles' , Competition and Consumer Law Journal, vol. 25 , pp. 151-172 .

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Abstract

Autonomous (or driverless) vehicles are here now. The benefits they can bring to society are enormous. Those without the capability to drive, or without the capacity for reasons such as intellectual disability or medical condition, will be presented with opportunities to participate in society in ways that are not currently possible. Furthermore, the accidents of today which are caused predominantly by driver error should lessen, and advocates suggest non-human driving will reduce energy consumption. The paradigm of ownership of a vehicle will also become of little importance with access to a driverless vehicle the evolving model. But accidents will still happen and who then will be liable? Without a change in the law, vehicle manufacturers, or autonomous technology manufacturers, will undoubtedly be targeted. The argument will be that it is some defect in the technology that led to the accident; no driver in the traditional sense in control of the vehicle. But the manufacturers will respond that the vehicle has been built based on the best technical knowledge of the day and that the problem was the result of poor highway design, through the failure of a telecommunications network, some defect in a component part for which they are not responsible, or some other external reason. In effect, they will use the extant defences available in product safety laws and the limitations of contract and negligence to limit their exposure. What this article proposes, so as to promote the innovation needed for further development of autonomous vehicles, and as a way to stimulate discussion of inventive solutions to the liability conundrum, is that we attribute legal entity status to the vehicle itself with this removing causation arguments, and deem the car to be at fault unless there is an independent and external reason which could not have been foreseen (for example driver circumventing the self-driving functionality). This would be accompanied by a community funded body that would act as the agent of the autonomous vehicle with compensation for injuries suffered, and property damaged incurred, coming from a pool of money established and contributed to by industry, government, and consumers. Insurers, rather than competing at the retail level for customers would compete in the wholesale market for reinsurance.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Griggs, L
Keywords: self-driving vehicles
Journal or Publication Title: Competition and Consumer Law Journal
Publisher: LexisNexis
ISSN: 1039-5598
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