Autonomous vehicles: Will software makers be liable for a crash?

Autonomous vehicles are gaining in popularity. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers state these vehicles are safe and reliable, less likely to get into an accident than those that are operated by human drivers. But what if something goes wrong? What if this technology malfunctions?

A recent piece in Claims Journal discussed this issue, noting that drivers generally only had to worry about two parties when it came to a faulty vehicle: the car manufacturer and the component makers. The publication calls for documentation in order to better ensure software companies are held responsible in the event of a malfunction. This would come in the form of a contract agreement such as a Software as a Service Agreement or a Software Licensing Agreement.

The discussion highlights one of the many legal issues that has yet to be resolved regarding autonomous vehicles and liability in the event of an accident. These vehicles are hitting the road in advance of regulation and legal standards. As such, it is likely that many of these issues will find themselves the center of court battles in the near future. Car manufacturers can mitigate the risk of liability by entering into contracts like those noted above with software providers.

Victims of car accidents that involve autonomous vehicles could find themselves facing a car manufacturer that attempts to argue it is not responsible for a potential defect or malfunction that contributed to an accident. Defenses to such arguments are available. As such, it is wise to seek legal counsel to help better ensure you receive the legal remedies you are entitled.

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