When the Trial Lawyers Come for the Robot Cars

A self-driving car traverses a parking lot at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California on January 8, 2016.

long the way to a world of driverless cars there are many potential roadblocks: infrastructure issues, different technical standards, restrictive state licensing policies, and more. But something more problematic might be the one most likely to derail this important technology: excessive lawsuits. To avoid the chilling effect that excessive litigation might have on this life-saving innovation, Congress may need to provide a certain amount of legal immunity for creators of driverless car technologies, or at least create an alternative legal compensation system for when things go wrong. 

To understand why such legal protection may be needed, let’s remember what’s at stake in the debate over driverless cars and vehicle safety.

As more driver-assist features are built into our cars and then fully autonomous vehicles start hitting the roads, we can expect a major reduction in the staggering toll associated with vehicular crashes. That’s great news because, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day in the United States, approximately 90 people die and 6,400 are injured in automobile accidents. And 94 percent of all those accidents are caused by human error.

read more : http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/06/if_a_driverless_car_crashes_who_is_liable.html