Who's Going to Be Responsible When Self-Driving Cars Crash?
In the wake of the first pedestrian to be killed by an autonomous car in the United States, experts believe the continued use of self-driving cars will cause a shift in the liability profile away from personal auto to commercial insurance and product liability.
This past March, a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona struggled to identify a woman walking across a four-lane road. Although it was dark, the car’s radar and LIDAR detected her six seconds before the crash, but the system got confused, identified her as an unknown object and struck her.
“While autonomous vehicles may reduce or eliminate some risks, as recent events show there will be crashes and new risks are likely to emerge,” said Ryan Gammelgard, counsel, public policy resource group State Farm in Bloomington, Illinois.
Now, many companies in the autonomous vehicle sector are seeking partnerships and solutions within the insurance industry. Manufacturers, component suppliers, and technology companies of these complex systems will start to assume more liability for the performance of self-driving cars, which will change current risk management strategies.
“The liability pendulum will shift from personal auto to commercial product liability or a hybrid of some form of coverage,” said David Carlson, senior vice president of March L.L.C.’s U.S. manufacturing and automotive industry practice in Cleveland. “The strongest growth in insurance will be in the area of product liability.”
The evolution of assigning liability is going to get more complex in the near future. Was it the technology system that created a failure? Did the driver make a mistake? Or was it something else entirely? Only time will tell how this plays out, but what is certain is that other accidents with autonomous cars will occur.