Saturday, October 29, 2016

Self Driving Cars and Liability

Kevin emails:
Regarding the Uber Robot Truck that delivers 45k cans of Budweiser, I think you've left out one very important point - liability in the event of an accident. Would love for you to post on that topic as this is going to be a very big deal going forward. I've read articles saying the robot should be granted personhood (as if the threat of jail to a robot means anything).

 RW response:
The liability would fall to the owner of the truck (or assigned renter). The truck is a tool of a human just like any other tool.
It makes no more sense to grant "personhood" to a truck any more than it makes sense to grant personhood to a hammer, a ballon or a gun. There is a lot of confusion out there about robots and automation but they are just tools that attempt to make life easier for humans.


  1. If anything this "person-hood" business, as alluded to above, would just be a fairly obvious ploy to divert liability to protect large interests rather than properly place it. Look what they did to property rights via railroads, factories, etc. Sounds like something some government body would pass if lobbied hard enough.

  2. Anyone suggesting self-driving car personhood at this point is either stupid or lying.

    The real question of liability is to distribute it between the car owner or the car manufacturer.

    In that light, the eventual outcome is obvious; the manufacturers will successfully lobby to have all liability dumped on the politically weaker car owners.

    1. But you forget one thing: the insurance companies. They won't want to pay for damage caused by a faulty product and they have much more lawyer/congressman money as an industry than your average individual.

  3. you would assign liability to the owner or renter of the truck ? that would put the burden of proof on them if there are bugs in the software (highly likely) ... seems unlikely that anyone would take that risk to save a few dollars ...

  4. Currently, the owner or renter of a car or truck retains liability and carries liability insurance. In case of an accident caused in whole or part by a car defect, the liability carrier will file a claim against the manufacturer to be made whole. Why would that change? Persistently defective machinery will carry a higher premium for liability insurance.

  5. Logic dictates that it should be the owner/renter/operator of said driver-less vehicle but it's most likely going to be who in auto or insurance industries have the deeper pockets.

  6. You know, Dave, it can only be attributable to human error.

  7. Common Star Trek figured this our two decades ago, or will in three centuries:

    There is actually some pretty serious discussion on this out there: