The Question of Liability in Autonomous Vehicle Crashes

Despite the ongoing development of autonomous vehicles, and the push to get autonomous vehicles on the road, there are still many questions about who can be held liable in the event of an accident. For example, while a consumer safety group believes that automakers should assume responsibility, automakers have argued that the issue is covered by state insurance laws determining liability. According to representatives for the Safe Autonomous Vehicles (“SAVe”) Campaign, the Campaign has reached out to executives from Audi, BMW, Daimler, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, Land Rover, Lyft, Nissan, Porsche, Tesla, Toyota, Uber, Volvo, and Volkswagen, asking them to agree to take responsibility for crashes of their autonomous vehicles. Although, to date, no automaker has signed the SAVe Campaign pledge, Volvo promised in a speech several months ago to accept liability for crashes that occur while its cars are in autonomous mode. The debate over liability comes as more companies express interest in the autonomous vehicle market and as more self-driving cars are put on the road for testing. GM, for instance, signaled in recent government filings that it would put as many as 300 more autonomous vehicles on the road, and Apple’s application to test autonomous Lexus SUVs was recently approved in California.

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