Today, many cars can self-park in parallel parking spots and other tricky situations. Many cars also have motion sensors and can begin stopping for you if you don't detect a hazard in time. By 2016, General Motors plans to have super-cruise enabled cars with hands-free automated driving on the road. Toyota and Volvo will be offering the same by 2017. Google began production of vehicles without a role for a driver in 2014. The vehicles are summoned by smartphone and go less than 25 miles per hour.
But how will these more automated cars affect liability? Can you still be held responsible for an accident if your car-not you-was actually driving?
A study on the liability of driverless cars, released by RAND Corporation in 2014, indicated that no-fault liability laws will be the easiest to adapt in a world of driverless cars. Instead of expecting accidents to increase, most experts expect that as these vehicles become more common on roads that accidents will decrease, since most accidents are caused by driver error. Data from the Institutes for Highway Safety already show a reduction in claims for property damage and collision among drivers using cars equipped with semi-automated technology like automatic braking and collision warning systems.
At the very least, manufacturers will be called on more often to prove the car was not at fault in driverless crashes. At the other end of the spectrum, a more sweeping change of insurance law may be on the horizon to create a change toward a no-fault system, but that would require the federal government to assume a larger role since auto insurance is regulated separately by each state.
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