The University of Michigan is getting set to take on the challenge of becoming a central repository for legal and regulatory information relative to autonomous vehicles.
. . . while the focus has been on the gadgets and sleek designs, popular culture has taken little notice of a key component of a driverless future: the legal implications. Fair enough, since it would be difficult to create a compelling narrative about whether it is legal for the Minority Report cars to cross state lines, or the liability issues raised by a crash between KITT and a car driven by a person.
In the real world, though, those issues must be addressed before driverless cars can take the rapid leap forward that many are predicting. That’s why a group of Michigan Law faculty members and students are working on a grant-funded project to survey the legal and regulatory issues that arise from automated vehicle technologies. They are working with academic and industry leaders to survey issues such as liability, insurance, privacy, intellectual property rights, and antitrust implications. . .
“It’s hard to know how this is going to affect insurers and how the risk will be allocated. This is something very important to the industry. If we move in the direction of greater manufacturer responsibility for highway accidents, it will mean a shift of auto risks from auto insurers to product-liability insurers,” Logue says, and figuring it out could slow the speed at which autonomous vehicles hit the roadways. Automakers, meanwhile, are “nervous that it will inhibit innovation,” he says. . .
Some developers of driverless cars could take on the liability themselves — including Volvo, which has said it will do when cars are in fully autonomous mode. The carmaker also has promised death-proof cars by 2020. In the driver’s seat
The topic of liability was discussed. The article suggested that compensation to victims might come in this way:
One option would be the establishment of a fund, along the lines of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund—which requires compensation to be provided for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001, or the debris removal that took place immediately after the crashes. With standardized technology and driverless cars, Crane suggests, manufacturers could pay into a fund that would compensate people who are injured in accidents. In return, they could be immune to tort liability.
So, if that is the way it went, what pressure would there be on any individual manufacturer to fix defects, etc.? Based on our experience and observations of the lack of accountability, in past decades, by trailer manufacturers to do anything substantial to prevent underride deaths, I am very skeptical about this.