If Google Cars Drive Themselves, Who Would You Sue?

December 27, 2010

Google-Car-auto-toyota-prius.jpgGoogle has developed a new car called the "Google Car". It is a Toyota Prius that is equipped with software that allows it to drive itself. The Google cars use video cameras, installed on the roof, radar sensors and laser range finders to travel through traffic on its own. These cars also navigate the road by using detailed maps. According to Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, "Our automated cars use... Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain."

The Google car was made with the intention to help prevent traffic accidents, free people's time, reduce distracted driving and drunk driving, and reduce carbon emissions. So far, the Google Car, has traveled about 140,000 miles and has only been involved in one traffic accident, a rear-end.

Google has yet to determine when these Google Cars will be available to the general public, but when they are, a question arises, if there is an accident, who would you sue?. The current statutes and case law in the United States were written for cars with human drivers, in order to determine the liability in an automobile accident. Therefore; once these Google Cars are put out on the market, laws would need to change.
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There are three factors that could determine liability in case of an automobile accident:

1) Google - the author of the software used by the Google Car;
2) Toyota - the current and only car Manufacturer of the Google Car; and
3) The Owner of the vehicle.

Liability would be determined on the type of accident and could have one or more of these parties at fault. The legal process would examine who is at fault. For example, was it a software issue or a mechanical failure? A software issue would be if the program made the wrong decision and caused a crash, and a mechanical failure would be if a part used to build the Google car was defective or malfunctioned.

All in all, the Goggle Car was created to make driving and roadways safer. In 2008, the NHTSA reported that there were 37,261 automobile fatalities. Lets hope that if and when the Google Car is put on the market it will lower the yearly number of deaths in the United States.