Cruising the liability highway

As the arrival of driverless vehicles inexorably approaches, the pressing question for legislators, business interests and consumers remains: if there is an accident, who will be liable?

The chief executive of Volvo Cars last week declared that Volvo will accept full legal liability for an accident if one of its cars is in autonomous mode at the time of the incident. However, Volvo subsequently told the BBC that it would first require there was a flaw in their technology to accept liability.

Assuming any third party involved is 100% innocent, currently it is generally accepted that liability for an accident will rest with the driver, the vehicle manufacturer or the supplier of a software or hardware component. Then, as now, a common law duty of care or a statutory liability will apply according to the established cause of the accident – human error or product failure.

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Four killed in West Yorkshire quad bike collision with car

Four young people aged 20 or under died in the early hours of Sunday 27 September 2015 following an accident on the A6201. According to the BBC news report (the headline of which is used above), the quad bike on which the four were riding was involved in a collision with a Nissan sports car, which was carrying two young men aged only 20 and 22.

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