In a couple of posts early this summer we riffed a bit about the implications that self-driving cars present to the future of driving. In the first of the two posts the question was raised about where liability would rest in the event one of these vehicles got into an accident. And the second highlighted how a majority of insurance industry executives expressed the opinion that it's not a big issue on their radar right now.
But consider that the idea behind self-driving cars is that no human being has hands on the wheel while it's underway. Then consider that under the current legal environment, personal liability is about the only avenue victims currently have for recovering compensation for injuries suffered due to another's negligence. Finally, consider that Google self-driving cars are now operating in Texas.
Put all those elements together and it should come as no surprise that the insurance industry is starting to examine what challenges might accompany the arrival of the cars. At least one representative says, "it's going to be very complicated." He poses the question of who would be at fault if two of the cars collide.
Further, he asks whether the lack of a human driver doesn't signal the possible beginning of the end of personal liability insurance. And he wonders what that means in terms of Texas jobs?
For its part, Google isn't focusing on liability. Rather, a spokesman for the company says the technology could be life changing in a good way. He offers a scenario of freedom for an elderly person who no longer has the capacity to handle the driving task.
Product liability insurance held by the manufacturers of such vehicles or their various parts might provide part of a solution, but the insurance official says there could be deeper questions to deal with. Did hardware fail? Was it software? Was the crash the result of a human overriding something?
Where questions exist, the law will be called upon to provide answers. Experienced legal counsel will definitely play a part in finding solutions. It will be intriguing to see how things play out.