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Liability a question when it comes to self-driving cars

Self-driving cars (often called autonomous vehicles) have been lauded for a long time. There have been a lot of promises about how much safer they will make the roads, and while it would be great for this promise to become a reality, it doesn't appear that a mass release of self-driving cars is in the cards any time soon.

But a new study does seem to support the lofty promises that self-driving cars seem to have made: that car crashes would be reduced 90 percent if they were driven without the klutzy hands of a human. If true, that 90 percent drop in car accidents would result in $180 billion in savings for Americans in a variety of areas (insurance costs, medical bills, expenses related to a car accident).

Still, there is still a hidden problem with this study: even if the 90 percent mark ends up being true, that still means there will be car accidents. Self-driving cars won't solve everything, and in fact they may complicate something else: liability. How do you determine liability or fault when two self-driving cars are involved? Or what if a self-driving car strikes a regular car? Who gets the blame in that scenario?

Obviously there is still a lot to be worked out with self-driving cars, from production to implementation. And there is plenty to be done on the legal side as well. Laws may need to change and insurance companies may need to rework their policies for self-driving cars. But what can't be denied is that car accidents are always going to happen, no matter how much technology we throw at it.

Source: Yibada, "Study Predicts 90% Reduction in Car Crashes with Self-driving Cars," Arhur Dominic Villasanta, March 11, 2015

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