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Self-driving cars can crash. Who should be liable for injuries?

Depending on what side of the technology divide you are on the prospect of self-driving cars may be either a cool idea or the scariest thing you can imagine. If you're sitting on the fence you might be inclined to have mixed feelings.

The idea of being able to give up some of the more burdensome tasks of driving to onboard computers and sensors may have a certain appeal. But what about that nagging feeling that begs the question, what if something goes haywire and you're not in control? Who is to blame if a self-driving car gets into a wreck

Anyone who is in tune with the current state of car making knows that it is already possible to get semi-autonomous safety devices on some high-end models. Manufacturers and other advocates say they already make driving safer. And as we move toward fully self-driving vehicles they say things will only get better.

But as we have learned in recent days, self-driving cars do get into accidents. Test vehicles that have been on the road in California have been involved in a number of crashes in the past six years. No one has been reported hurt and operators of the vehicles insist they were all due to human error, not mechanical.

That may be little consolation to skeptical consumers. There haven't been any injury- or death-causing accidents that we know of, but there aren't that many fully autonomous vehicles on the road now. What happens when they are everywhere and accidents still happen? What will be required to hold those responsible for accidents accountable?

The question of liability is one that analysts are already studying and some say the answer may just involve shifting insurance policies from driver liability to manufacturer liability. Put another way, product liability insurance will replace personal policies.

Will that be enough? What do you think?

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