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Who gets cited when a self-driving car causes an accident?

For those who grew up watching the cartoon show, The Jetsons, the idea of a face-to-face telephone conversation seemed futuristic and unlikely. But with the advent of Face Time, that incredulity has been replaced by awe and now friends and family aren’t limited to just the sound of their loved ones' voices.

While The Jetsons T.V. show portended many future inventions (dog-walking treadmill anyone?), a self-driving car wasn’t one of them (the Jetsons presumably went straight to flying cars.) Yet here they are, and one can only wonder: When a self-driving car causes an accident, who exactly is held responsible?

The human driver?

Last spring an Arizona man found out. In March, a self-driving SUV operated by Uber was involved in an accident. The vehicle was being tested and was struck by another vehicle that failed to yield. The driver of that car was cited for a moving violation.

But who would have been held accountable if the un-manned vehicle had violated the rules of the road?

Up to the individual states?

As self-driving vehicles are being tested and vetted, will the law keep up with the liability? The cars being tested by Uber currently do not have passengers in them, but do have “operators.” What the operators do and how--or if--they are responsible for any traffic violations remains to be seen. At this time, the reports about the operators are vague.

Uber began test-driving driverless cars in Arizona after California banned them from their roads because of a lack of transparency and reports of violations such as running red lights, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. California also does not allow passengers in driverless cars.

Currently, Arizona does and whether this bodes well for the citizens of Arizona or not remains to be seen. Unless and until further legislation is passed regulating them, driverless cars are in a legal gray area for liability.

 

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