Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who Do You Sue When a Google Car Kills?

I had no idea such a car even existed, 

The Google Car has been heralded as the future of automobiles; an autonomous, driverless car that combines our love of technology with our endless desire for mobility.

The so-called “Google Car” is a Toyota Prius outfitted with data-recording cameras that has already traveled more than 140,000 miles, in a variety of real world conditions without an accident. Well, there was that one.

A driver rear ended a Google Car while it was stopped at a red light, according to The New York Times piece that broke the story. While a technician sits behind the wheel, it’s the car’s programming that does most of the driving with only occasional human adjustments, as needed.

There are many potential benefits from cars that drive themselves, such as tuning the engine to coast as efficiently possible, increasing the capacity of existing roads and the unassailable fact that machines don’t get tired, they don’t get drunk and they don’t get distracted. But they’re still machines. Even a reliability rate of 99.99 percent means that an accident is bound to happen at some point. And this means that somebody’s gonna get sued.

Whether it is a Google Car or one of the driverless vehicles currently being developed by scientists at universities and labs around the country, an autonomous vehicle on a crowded street is heading right into a legal minefield. If a driver or pedestrian is injured or killed by a poorly functioning Google Car, who will be at fault?

“The question becomes, who is the ‘driver’ in a driverless car situation?” says attorney Scott Lovernick.

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