Autonomous driving raises difficult questions around who is at fault in the event of a crash: the human driver, or a computer. With various levels of automation in development and on the road, it is a challenging time for the automotive industry, insurers and legislators.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will share the road with members of the public, and the risk of a collision is never zero. As such, they cannot feasibly be commercialised outside of trial conditions until there is a framework for liability. The challenge is in understanding whether a particular system was engaged under the right circumstances, whether a crash resulted from a system error or if a myriad of other factors are in play.
To date, investigators have struggled to determine the root cause of an AV crash with absolute certainty, but efforts to make vehicle data more accessible could change things. Legal frameworks are also being reshaped to address the fact that control of the vehicle is now shared, and insurers are preparing for a day where drivers become riders.
Self-driving vs. driver assistance
The outcome of a collision could vary depending