Liability Issues of Crash Avoidance Systems and Robotic Cars

Today,  I attended a telephone seminar given by the Pennsylvania Association for Justice on Crash Avoidance Systems, Robotic Cars, etc.  In layman’s terminology, these might more popularly be called “self-driving cars.” Self-driving cars raise many more issues of liability than you might first imagine.  The first thing that pops into mind is liability for a crash caused by a self-driving car’s robotic malfunction.  This is not as open-and-shut as it might first appear.  Thanks to the “Fair Share Act,” passed during the Corbett administration, any car manufacturer responsible for damages from a crash, will try to put as much of the blame as it can on the vehicle operator, and as little as possible on the vehicle manufacturer or designer. However, even greater dangers are lurking around the corner. For the time being the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has placed the responsibility for determining or limiting the liability of the car manufacturers on the states. Therefore, everything for now will be in the hands of the state legislators you will be electing or have just elected on November 8, 2016.

An even greater threat will come if NHTSA or the Congress decides that the states aren’t acting quickly enough, and tries to grant the auto manufacturers immunity for their role in causing collisions of self-driving vehicles. Thus, your vote on the congressman you elected on November 8th will be doubly important.

Self-driving cars raise other issues, too. For example, what if you are injured by a regular car, with no self-driving features?  Can you sue the other driver for negligence in not equipping his car with collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, cross traffic alert, blind-spot detection or lane-change assistance? These features are now available as “extras” in many vehicles, and will become part of standard equipment.

And now, these features, coupled with “black box” technology, make an early impoundment and inspection of suspect vehicles even more necessitous, and as quickly as possible.

If you have any questions about this or any other matter please give me a call at the above number.  If you can’t call during regular hours, my home phone number remains 610-565-7712.

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