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Autonomous Robotic Car May Not Be a Great Bargain

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

In Episode 39, we addressed the subject of autonomous robotic cars. We speculated that the law will hold the owners of such vehicles legally responsible for driving mistakes. And, the law will hold manufacturers accountable for manufacturing defects contributing to cause a crash.

But, Episode 39 was before the Pandemic and before social media account cancellation became prevalent. In light of these developments, we have some additional thoughts.

Imagine a fleet of tens of thousands of autonomous cars filling up the lanes of a major expressway. Imagine too the networking infrastructure necessary to control these vehicles.

What if the government issued an order sending all cars and their owners home to their garages or driveways? Then suppose a follow-up order telling the cars to stay parked until released by the government.

Suppose the tech company operating the infrastructure objected to your social media post and canceled your network access leaving you and your car stuck in a dangerous neighborhood?

Sound far-fetched? Governments now put people on no-fly lists. Can no drive lists be far behind?

Media companies cancel social media accounts, and people lose jobs because of it. Why stop at job loss? Lock a car? Freeze credit cards?

If a society chooses to create autonomous vehicles, it ought to address such questions in advance.

Of course, as we have observed with lockdown orders, having laws in place prohibiting overreach doesn’t stop overreach unless the people in charge willingly agree to abide by the law.

We speculated in Episode 39, that the law will hold the owners of robot vehicles responsible for driving mistakes and manufacturers accountable for manufacturing defects. But, we wholly failed to consider network operator liability for network errors (or canceling someone). We likewise did not consider government-induced mischief.

Our guess, on further thought, is that perhaps in the future, people will not even own vehicles. Maybe people will just buy a ride in an autonomous car. The car suppliers might be liable just like bus companies and other common carriers when a crash occurs, and passengers are hurt.

But even common carrier liability is limited. They are liable for injuries suffered by passengers as a result of the carrier’s negligence, but common carriers are not insurers of passenger safety. Moreover, common carrier companies and drivers are not responsible for injuries that happen because of causes out of their control.

Wow, this is all way too hard to think about. I want a nice 1959 Chevy 3100 pickup with a carburetor and distributor. No power brakes or steering. No power anything.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”