Driving Into the Future… Maybe

As technology has progressed, even in the past two decades, there have been some stunning advancements in virtually every field. One that is on the verge of breaking free is the self-driving motor vehicle.

Honestly, who hasn’t thought about the idea of a car that could drive itself? Simply plug in a destination and the car gets you there without you having to do anything. You could relax, read a book, watch a movie or even take a nap and make it to your destination.

However, there are potential downfalls and legal issues that come with the idea of the self-driving car. In a “normal” car, the driver is held responsible for actions that happen behind the wheel and that is why we’re required to purchase insurance. However, with self driving vehicles, who is held responsible in the event of an accident? If the driver is not physically in control of the car, then who is to blame? And who would hold the insurance? The buyer? The manufacturer? Some government created body?

Another potential issue is a computer failure in the car. While mechanical and electronic failures can occur with operator driven cars, self driving technology is far more advanced and comples. If the self driving system gets a bug, this could lead to catastrophic consequences. In essence, the driver is at the mercy of the computer that is running their car, which has been programmed by someone to make decisions based on a series of data that it processes during the drive. Also concerning is what happens if an owner of a self driving vehicle attempts to repair or alter the vehicle himself or doesn’t bring it back to the dealership for a required update? Who would be liable in that case?

Just looking at a few of these possibilities, the idea of a self-driving car is no doubt an exciting thing. And on paper, it could definitely make life a lot easier for people. However, I don’t believe that technology has quite gotten to the point to make it feasible right now. Human drivers are not perfect, however, the human factor is a known risk. Self driving technology is not.

– Zach Opsitnick

Author: opsitnickslaw

Allan J. Opsitnick J.D. and B.A. Degrees, University of Pittsburgh

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