How will robot cars affect accident law?

You are doubtless aware that car companies are exploring the possibility of cars that drive themselves. Google, ever the visionary company, has already developed a self-driving car, guided by laswers, radar and sensors. By 2022 all cars will come with automatic braking systems.

Cars will soon come with artificial intelligence (AI) systems that, on paper, should significantly reduce the number of serious accidents.

What will that mean?

If an accident occurs anyway, despite the car's artificial intelligence (AI) system, whose fault will the accident be?

In 2016 the government's safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), declared that accidents in Google's self-driving car may the fault not of you, the driver, but of the car's AI system. The car's electronics will be the legal "driver."

Likewise, failures by automatic braking systems may be blamed not on you, the driver, but on the braking system. People injured because of faulty braking will be filing claims against the manufacturer or servicer of the braking system.

This is a huge change.

Another consideration is that the evolution into intelligent automobiles, which has been underway for decades already, will not happen overnight. Systems will fail and cause accidents, especially as the new systems are coming online. Stories of these accidents will be a ,major topic of conversation. It may be additional decades before drivers feel 100 percent confident that the systems are reliable.

In this transformative period, old-fashioned human lawyers will be more important than ever. We will need to be able to establish culpability, and create meaningful case law, during a revolution in personal injury law.

What will Google do?

Google expects to be selling its new age cars by 2020. It will be a stunning moment in the way claims are resolved, as puzzling in its way as Google's prototype car is today - no steering wheel, no gas or brake pedals.

It may be a while before we see these cars coming toward us here in Williamsport. But we at Casale & Bonner are planning for this red-letter event.

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