General Question

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The way technology is advancing, the computer driven car is becoming more of a reality.My question when an accident does happen, will we be able to blame the vehicle, and not the driver?

Asked by SQUEEKY2 (18891points) September 16th, 2014

After all it was doing the driving.
Or will it boil down to who ever owns the darn thing, regardless if they were present and in the vehicle at the time of the accident?

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32 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

And accidents will happen, maybe far less, but they will happen, so who will be at fault if we take the human out of the picture?

ragingloli's avatar

The owner of the vehicle, of course.
Someone has to be blamed, and you can be sure that the manufacturer will have a clause in the purchase contract that absolves them from any legal responsibility.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Oh undoubtedly the manufacturer would have something to shed them of any blame, so you say the owner even if he/she isn’t present at the time of the accident?

majorrich's avatar

I feel technology will serve to degrade the quality of the driver. Just like people being unable to drive a manual or have problems with rear-wheel drive. They will become lazy and be in more catastrophic accidents because of the technology that allowed them to get into more trouble before it fails. Just like people driving all wheel drive in the winter at speeds inappropriate for conditions.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@majorrich I couldn’t agree with you more,great answer. :)

gorillapaws's avatar

@majorrich I think you’re completely wrong about the more accidents thing. The thing I fear when I drive down the road is idiots who pass on the right, don’t use signals, text while driving, drunk drivers, drivers who have a serious medical event etc. I’d feel a lot safer if robot-cars were in control.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@gorillapaws I fear those drivers as well, but with computer cars don’t you think it will make those drivers worse not better?

gorillapaws's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 They shouldn’t be driving, and with a computer in charge, they won’t be. I really can’t wait for the day I get in my car, tell it where I want to go, and the enjoy reading a book while it gets me to where I need to go, safely.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

OK, but don’t you think like @majorrich said it might, or will degrade your driving skills?
If you rely on technology won’t we lose our driving skills that some of us are proud of?

majorrich's avatar

I can see that perhaps there might be fewer minor accidents. But the bad ones will be really bad because of poor judgement on the part of the driver. When someone/thing does the thinking for you, the skill and intuition that the human element supplies is diminished. Also, a failure in any part of the system would call on skills no longer taught. Heck, that’s kind of why I keep my old 240d around. Manual everything..

Pachy's avatar

The owner—not only for causing the accident, but also for being such an idiot to buy such a vehicle in the first place.

ibstubro's avatar

This is an interesting question, and there was some debate on it recently on NPR, if anyone is motivated to find it.

Of course, driverless cars will have a ‘black box’, and I think from there an investigation will determine who’s insurance pays. It might be the owner at fault for not maintaining the vehicle properly, or overriding the auto drive. It might be the GPS at fault. Or if the owner has properly maintained the vehicle and it was in auto-pilot, then it would be the manufacturer’s fault. This is where the airline industry is with ‘black box’ technology.

How would this work? Basically by the auto maker requiring needless and expensive maintenance [frequently], at a “factory authorized” location. Meaning that they get a kick-back every time your car is serviced and they make enough to pay their insurance claims, many times over. Oh, and sorry, the cost of your GPS service just doubled.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ohhh…Good question!

Mimishu1995's avatar

The driver. The computer driven car is just a computer after all. It can drive you, but it can’t do some more human tasks like avoiding traffic jams, finding an alternative way to go if the planned way is blocked… The computer car is convenient but it can’t replace human thinking completely, like most computers That’s why we still have CAPCHA to prevent computer from accessing certain things. The computer car is just obeying what the driver ask it to do.

If an accident happens, it can be the driver’s fault for depending on the computer too much, or programming it the wrong way.

ibstubro's avatar

The computer driven car has no ‘driver’, @Mimishu1995. The owner can read, nap..whatever, and the computer drives the car. Google was opposed to even giving the owner the option of taking over manual control of the car.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Pachy Driving is pretty easy, unless you’re a professional pushing the machine to its very limits. 15-year-olds seem to do just fine after a few hours in a simulator, and driving with mom/dad for a day or so. Some tasks computers suck at, like understanding nuance or scarcasm in language, but other tasks are very mechanical, and sensors + chips have much faster reaction times than people. They won’t tailgate, will signal appropriately, pass on the appropriate side, won’t get fatigued, get distracted, get drunk, etc. I suspect nearly all accidents involving self-driving cars will be the fault of the other driver.

If you look at modern autopilots on airplanes, you’ll see that they don’t ever really make mistakes. Every plane crash that I can think of was either pilot error, mechanical failure (not autopilot), or terrorism/being shot down.

If I were the manufacturer of a self-driving car, I would absolutely cover the costs of all accidents where the vehicle we produced was at fault. If I didn’t expect this number to be infinitesimally small I wouldn’t sell the car to the public. The biggest challenge these cars will face is gaining consumer confidence. I can’t think of a better marketing strategy than to say: “We stand behind our cars 100%, and in the unlikely event that our vehicle causes an accident, we will cover the damages.”

ibstubro's avatar

In that case, @CuriosityKills, I agree with @SQUEEKY2. Lazy, disengaged drivers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, honestly, I’d trust a computer driven car ahead of a human driven car. If all cars were computer driven, I would imagine the accident rates would push 0.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@Dutchess_III and computers have never erred or crashed?
There might be far less accidents, but to have them drop to 0 don’t bet on it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s true, @SQUEEKY2, and you should know it of all people! But here. Let me tell you a story.

We were driving south on Main street in Winfield sometime after 6 p.m. last night. The parking downtown is at a diagonal. If there are no other cars parked around you it’s pretty common to back out a little bit, then crank the wheel left and go forward to straighten the car out so you can just kind of merge onto Main, instead of trying to back out into traffic.

Around 10th and Main there was a lady in a Buick trying to do just that, but she didn’t seem to notice the oncoming cars and almost hit at least one, the one in front of us. Learned a bit later that there were others. The car in front pulled around her, and Rick stopped to let her pull on out. After several hazy seconds she finally did, but she was driving very, very slowly so Rick drove around her, as did the guy behind us. Something was wrong with her.

I was on the phone with Corrie when Rick, who was watching the gal in his rear view mirror, suddenly yelled, “Shit! She’s on the curb! Call 911!”
So I hung up on Corrie and called 911 (pretty sure they’re starting to recognize my crime-fighter voice. I sure recognized the dispatcher’s!) As I’m trying to give them the location, “Um, she’s heading…heading…um SOUTH! SOUTH on Main!” the driver kind of wandered over to the left lane and somehow managed to turn left, on to 12th, which is a residential neighborhood. Actually, she kind of missed the street and wound up on the grass to the north of a brick insurance building and was headed toward the side of the building.

I yelled, “She turned on 12th! She’s heading, um, LEFT! LEFT! Um,East? EAST!! She’s heading EAST on 12th! I think she’s going to hit the building! Oh, this is very bad.”
Dispatch said, “She’s going toward Rubbermaid?”
“YES!” I yelled. He and I have had these kinds of discussions before.
“Just checking,” he said.

Before she hit the building she managed to turned her car and wobbled her way, somehow, back toward the street.

Since we were about ½ a block ahead of where she had been on Main, Rick accelerated to 13th, turned right and zipped around the block and came out on 12th, across Main street from her. We got there just as her car slowly fell off the curb, back into the street.

About three blocks up 12th street there was a truck parked in the street. Rick said, “Man, I bet she hits that truck…..”

We crossed Main to follow her, I’m giving the dispatch a blow by blow, and the driver was alternately riding up on the curb, into people’s lawns and on the sidewalk, then back in the street, wandering all over the street.

Then Rick yelled, “There she goes! She’s gonna hit that truck!” It was like watching a disaster unfold in slow motion and there is nothing you can do. And sure as hell she hit it. !!!BOOM!!! She knocked it up over the curb and about 10 feet away, almost flipping it, but it landed crookedly on all four wheels, blocking the sidewalk and the alley. Still can’t figure out how that little Buick knocked that truck so far. Rick said the truck had a lift kit on it, and she was accelerating at the moment, and she just plowed under the back fender and just picked it up and shoved it. Her front window was broken on the right corner where the fender of the truck hit it.

“She just hit a parked truck!” I yelled at the dispatcher, then tried to get my bearings to tell him exactly where we were. I’m crappy with directions anyway and the adrenalin didn’t help. Finally managed to give him an address. You’d think someone who fights crime as much as me would have this direction thing figured out by now.

Her car was stopped so Rick got out of our Mountaineer and he jogged toward her car.
“Rick’s going to take her keys,” I said to dispatch.
Dispatch said, “OK. By the way, can I get your name?”
I said, “Valerie Billionis.”
He just said, “Uh huh.”

When he got to her she had started to open her door and had one foot out the door, to get out, but trying to restart the engine at the same time. Car wouldn’t start so Rick just stood there, outside of her passenger window, ready to move if, somehow, the car DID start.

Rick said she didn’t look to be physically hurt, just a small cut on her forehead where she hit the steering wheel or something, but she was incoherent.

Right about then 4 or 5 more cars pulled up around us. They were the all the people she’d affected, in one way or another, during her 2 block rambling disaster down Main street. It included a Pizza Hut delivery car.

Then the police and EMS finally got there. The neighbors came out. The street was full of cars and cops and people. Most of us were completely blocked in, by emergency vehicles and ourselves.
Groups formed and shifted, as we talked.
One of the vehicles was a big, white pick up with those heavy duty push bumper grill on the front. The driver was saying he almost wished he’d pushed her to the curb while she was on Main. I said, “That would have been something to see! I wish you had too!”

I said I wished we would have blocked her in somehow back then, but…we didn’t know then how BAD it really was.

Got my camera and was taking pictures. I was standing by the Pizza Delivery car and a lady from a house across the way said, “Is the pizza guy there?”
I said, “He’s not in the car, but the pizza is! Want some?” I was sorta tempted to start handing the pizza out to all the on lookers, but then the neighbor said, “That’s my pizza!”
So went and tapped the pizza guy on the shoulder and said, “The lady wants her pizza.”
So, in the middle of this, the pizza guy delivered the pizza.

Well, long story short, the driver of the Buick was a mess. We don’t know if the problem was medical, but we doubted it. But we don’t know.
So they loaded her into an ambulance, B&L showed up with their big, purple tow truck and they towed her car away, and we finally started dispersing.

As Rick and I were sitting in the Mountaineer, ready to leave, a neighbor (who I knew in another time, long, long ago) and her daughter, who was about six, came to my car window and were talking with us. The child was just excitedly chattering on about the mess, saying she hated bad people and bad things and how she’s bionic.
I said “You’re bionic?”
Her mom said, “Yes, she’s bionic. Just ask her.”
So the little girl grinned at me and said, “Yes, I’m bionic!”
I said, “Well, you know what? When I was your age I was a mermaid!”
Her eyes opened wide in astonishment and her mouth fell open and she said, “Really??”
I just smiled and nodded. Then I realized I was memorizing her. I saw her sweet little face, her summer-sun bleached blond hair, freckles skipping across her nose, her bright blue eyes, wide open in astonishment at meeting a real mermaid, and thought how easily it all could have changed in an instant that bright afternoon, had she been outside playing in her yard…..

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@Dutchess_III I agree a computer driven vehicle would have been the answer for this lady,BUT I am super afraid that computer cars will degrade people with medium driving skills taking away the need to improve on them.
And making distracted drivers worse not better, because they would feel there is no need to pay any kind of attention since the car is the one doing the driving not them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Trouble is, people with medium driving skills don’t know they’re crappy drivers. Everyone thinks they’re a great driver with no need to improve.

bea2345's avatar

You cannot blame a machine, no matter how high-tech it is. Somebody is at fault when a machine misbehaves and it is never a jumbie in the works. BTW, is it possible that, in the post by @Dutchess_III , that poor woman driver might have been having a stroke or a seizure? Let us hope that she was well insured.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We never found out, but I’ll go look some more.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@bea2345 Let’s all hope she is well, and I agree, and let’s hope that the (great*) people that use this wonderful technology realize that as well.

* translated ,means morons.

stanleybmanly's avatar

There’s a lot to think about with a world of driverless cars, and faulting someone in the event of accidents is just one problem in a long list. It seems to me that there would be an enormous shift in liability from the owner of the car (who is after all, merely another passenger) to the manufacturer and whatever entity is responsible for the roadways. When motor vehicles advance to the point that no driver is required, they will almost certainly be able to monitor themselves as to their own roadwothiness, and safety. A car with safety issues would know about them an shut itself down.

ibstubro's avatar


Exists and in use.

Determines fault.

bea2345's avatar

Should driverless transport become common, then the communications grid – or an important part of it – would change a great deal. There would be far more control by some authority or other, because that is the nature of automation. It is unlikely that Toyota, for example, would not keep close watch on every robot that it sells. No government is going to stop collecting car licences or even drivers’ permits. Fancy living in a country where the authorities know where you are the moment you get into a motor car. I would like to see some informed speculation on this aspect of driverless transport.

Zaku's avatar

Anyone who thinks computer-controlled cars are ok will be to blame. Not the people who write the first viruses which infect cars and make them all play smash up derby on April Fool’s Day at 5:30pm. While making all their built-in TV’s play the linked You-Tube video at full volume. At least it will be a good example of why you shouldn’t always do things just because you can. Because apparently we haven’t had enough of those to get it yet. Nuclear fission…

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