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Liability

After several incidents with autonomous driving and cars being hacked and taken over, a more dangerous side of the new technology appears.

Hacker attacks or faulty software could shift the burden of legal and regulatory liability toward makers of self-driving cars and away from customers, experts say, forcing regulators and insurers to develop new models.

Autonomous cars have the potential to reduce the rate of traffic accidents as sensors and software give a car faster and better reflexes to prevent a collision. However, a greater level of automation increases the need for cyber security and sophisticated software, experts said.

“Although accident rates will theoretically fall, new risks will come with autonomous vehicles,” said Domenico Savarese, Group head of Proposition Development and Telematics at Zurich Insurance.

“What should be done in the case of a faulty software algorithm? Should manufacturers be required to monitor vehicles post-sale in the case of a malfunction or a hacker attack?” Savarese asked.

While established models for assigning liability – such as holding the owner responsible for what the car does – will still be relevant, the onus may shift toward manufacturers.

Greater automation may also change consumer behavior and affect insurance costs if drivers become less vigilant and less practiced in their ability to avert an accident.

 

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