Autonomous vehicles bring new liability issues to the forefront

The advancement of autonomous vehicle technology means that Pennsylvanians are increasingly likely to encounter autonomous vehicles on the roads. These vehicles have safety drivers who must sit behind the wheels of the vehicles and take over if something goes wrong. However, when they are being operated in autonomous mode, AVs operate on their own in traffic.

One issue that has arisen with the advent of autonomous vehicles is liability. When an autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident, it might be unclear who is liable to pay damages. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB allocated liability in a 2018 Uber crash that killed a pedestrian between the autonomous vehicle, the pedestrian, the state of Arizona, and the safety driver in the Uber. The case demonstrated the need for new models of liability when autonomous vehicles are involved in collisions.

Researchers from Columbia Law School and Columbia Engineering School teamed up to study liability models in cases involving autonomous vehicles. Using game theory, the researchers analyzed the behavior of each party in traffic interactions. They hypothesized that human drivers who encounter autonomous vehicles are likelier to engage in riskier driving behaviors because of the assumption that the AVs will take conservative approaches. They also hypothesized that the manufacturers and designers of AVs are profit-driven and are less likely to prioritize safety over profits unless they receive government subsidies.

While AVs promise to lead to reduced traffic accidents and lower fatality and injury rates, the vehicles are not infallible. Instead, they are designed and created by humans, and their systems can make mistakes. People who are injured in accidents caused by autonomous vehicles might want to talk to an attorney experienced in litigating motor vehicle accidents about their options. Depending on the situation, the injured victims might be able to hold the designers, manufacturers, safety drivers, and others liable for the negligence that caused their accidents and injuries. The attorneys may help their clients to determine liability and to name all of the potentially liable defendants. This might help their clients to recover maximal compensation for their losses through the identification of additional sources of recovery.