A Question Of Liability

Dan Detweiler

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#1
So, I was listening to the latest video blog from Trevor and Kenneth at the gym this morning and a thought struck me. (By the way, these videos make a great distraction while you're sweating away the miles on a treadmill, thanks!)

In short, should government approval or acceptance limit/slow the release of new technology on a vehicle? Of course I was specifically thinking about autonomous capability. It is obvious that technological breakthroughs will always be well ahead of governmental acceptance, but it struck me that perhaps it shouldn't get in the way of releasing this ability to the public. The argument of course is that it would open up Tesla to an onslaught of liability cases when people start getting in accidents and heaven forbid, losing their lives as a result of the use of this technology.

But wait, don't we already do this on a daily basis with every car on the road? Every car produced in the world today possesses the technological ability to break the law. They can all exceed posted speed limits, they can all drift out of their lane, they can all follow too closely, etc. When these and other traffic rules are broken and there is an accident, nobody sues (and wins at least) the car manufacturer over the stupidity of its operator.

What is to keep Tesla from doing the same thing with autonomy, with the stipulation that any accidents incurred while using the technology is the sole responsibility of the driver? The driver being always the responsible party. This would allow them to release it much sooner, let people use it up to the point of taking the driver out of the car, collecting the data needed to improve the technology and supporting their claim with the government regarding signing off on its use. They could then site the efficiency and improved safety over human driving.

What do you think? Especially all you lawyers out there. Interested in your take.

Thanks in advance

Dan
 

BigBri

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#2
They'd probably be more scared of the PR. Every Tesla that gets into an accident is national news and everytime they hope its related to Autopilot. Good thing is with worldwide government some are pretty liberal into accepting new technologies and if Tesla has enough cars on the road there is presents a pretty strong use case to countries dragging their feet.
 

TrevP

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#3
Ken and I will be discussing several aspects of vehicle autonomy in upcoming episodes of our show with some expert guests. Insurance issues will be covered as well as another section that nobody has talked about yet. I don't want to give it away quite yet as we're still in talks with the parties involved.

Stay tuned for news :)
 

garsh

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#4
As long as the manufacturer says that it's a driver assistance feature, and that the driver ultimately is responsible for what happens, then nothing really needs to change as far as liability. Drivers will still obtain insurance for the vehicle, and any accidents will be the driver's responsibility.

Things get interesting when we talk about full autonomy. When cars are driving themselves on public roads, and no driver is required. Now there's a question of how current laws apply to this situation. Does everything "work out"? Do we need to pass laws to allow autonomous vehicles? If there is a problem, then Tesla could conceivably release the full autonomous capability, but state that you must have a driver who is ultimately responsible until laws are changed.
 

Dan Detweiler

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#5
As long as the manufacturer says that it's a driver assistance feature, and that the driver ultimately is responsible for what happens, then nothing really needs to change as far as liability. Drivers will still obtain insurance for the vehicle, and any accidents will be the driver's responsibility.

Things get interesting when we talk about full autonomy. When cars are driving themselves on public roads, and no driver is required. Now there's a question of how current laws apply to this situation. Does everything "work out"? Do we need to pass laws to allow autonomous vehicles? If there is a problem, then Tesla could conceivably release the full autonomous capability, but state that you must have a driver who is ultimately responsible until laws are changed.
That was precisely my thought.

Dan
 

Michael Russo

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#6
Ken and I will be discussing several aspects of vehicle autonomy in upcoming episodes of our show with some expert guests. Insurance issues will be covered as well as another section that nobody has talked about yet. I don't want to give it away quite yet as we're still in talks with the parties involved.

Stay tuned for news :)
Great plan, particularly for those non-lawyeers amongst us! :) If at all possible, try to have at least one person who can talk about other regions beyond NA... Don't forget, you're reaching out to the entire world now!! That is the appeal of the Canadian spin!! :)
 

Topher

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#7
Drivers will still obtain insurance for the vehicle
In many places, liability is decided by insurance companies and courts. If an insurance company decides that an autonomous driving system of the other car is responsible for an injury to their insured driver, they will sue the car company rather than the insurance company of the other 'driver'.

Thank you kindly.