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Who is Legally Responsible When a Robotic Car Causes a Crash?

I’m David 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 topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a listener who said

“Did you see that Hawaii-5-0 episode with the robot car? Who would be legally responsible if a robotic car caused a Car Crash?

This is an interesting question. Robot cars, or what they call autonomous driving vehicles are supposed to be very common by 2025. In fact, many manufactures expect that 5G wireless networks will make self-driving cars the primary means of transportation.

For now, we are just seeing occasional headlines about self-driving cars. Soon we’ll either have one or know of people who have one.

But will a self-driving car be able to avoid collisions without human intervention, and do so safely and securely without risking injury to passengers in the event of a crash?

Do you really want a robot driving you around in a four wheeled vehicle at highway speeds on a scenic cliffside highway?

Do you want to risk injury to your family because of a crash caused by some algorithm or formula that does not recognize correctly the edge of a cliff? Or, misreads a red traffic signal as green? Or rear-ends you because you forgot to turn on your headlights (and taillights) when you left the grocery store and it could not discern your car on the highway?

When a crash happens, how do you hold a machine responsible for injuring a person?

My educated guess, and that is all it is, is that the law will hold the owners of the vehicle legally responsible for mistakes made in driving by the vehicle. And, the law will hold manufacturers responsible for manufacturing defects that contributed to cause the crash.

Right now, when a car component, such as an airbag malfunctions, the car maker, and the component supplier (for example Takata in the case of Takata airbags) can be held legally responsible.

Which causes me to ask, would you buy a self-driving car system made by Takata?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle collision (whether caused by a person or a robot) please call to speak with one of our attorneys about your situation.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. 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”.