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Is the day coming when drivers won’t be accountable for crashes?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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If you asked people in the car making industry the question in this headline, you might be surprised to hear that the answer could actually be, “yes.” Carmakers are becoming increasingly confident in automated driving features, and some have stated that eventually, drivers will not be held accountable for crashes.

This issue of liability has been a widely discussed issue in recent years due to the unique operation of automated cars. People have suggested liability for everyone from car owners and insurance companies to software developers, and there has yet to be a single, clear answer.

However, a spokesperson for Volvo recently stated that their cars have so many automated features and backups that it would be all but impossible for a human to be at fault for an accident when the automated features are engaged; a couple other carmakers have agreed.

For the time being, though, some car companies are refraining from going as far as Volvo when it comes to completely removing humans from the liability equation. In fact, many of the current automated systems in cars require human drivers to remain alert. In some cases, the driver will need to take over the controls in bad weather. In other cases, systems require drivers to have their hands on the wheel at all times.

This means there is still a gray area when it comes to assigning liability in crashes today that involve automated systems. Some automakers will cover damages in the event of a crash, others could still argue that a crash stemmed from driver error.

Unless and until national regulations and laws regarding self-driving cars are put into place, the question of liability after an accident could prove to be much more complicated to answer than people expect. While liability could almost always be placed on carmakers in a crash involving a driverless car, most vehicles still require some amount of human engagement. So, while the day for drivers to escape liability for a crash could certainly be coming, that day is not necessarily today.