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.