The autonomous vehicle (and IV): aspects of civil responsibility

January 12 , 2018 // Specialty : Liability derived from the use of motor vehicles

Published in Bolsamanía

This article is the continuation of 'The autonomous vehicle (III): impacts on the territory and the city'
The generalization of the autonomous vehicle will foreseeably lead to a smaller number of accidents whose main cause today is the human factor. However, it will go from an environment of many accidents with minor damage, to a new environment with few accidents with significant damage such as occurs in air and rail transport.
Insurance companies will offer cheaper insurance insofar as vehicles have better safety devices. Likewise, the autonomous vehicle will reduce very considerably the responsibility of the occupant of the vehicle, unlike what happens at present.
In fact, civil liability is one of the critical aspects in the development of the autonomous vehicle, since most drivers will be transferred to vehicle manufacturers, which can have an important impact on the functioning of the insurance market. Marchant and Lindor (2012) point out that one of the main obstacles for the autonomous vehicle to generalize is the fact that the manufacturers can be subject to important compensations for civil liability.
The traditional principles of liability in case of accident establish that someone is civilly liable for damages caused to the extent that these are derived from negligence on their part. The idea is that the negligent party must compensate the damages for not reasonably preventing the risk. However, the characterization of reasonableness is something tremendously complicated. So far the negligent liability system has been adequately managed due to the mandatory insurance system to the extent that insurance companies have agreed to informal rules for assigning responsibility, facilitating the rapid management of incidents and reducing litigation.
In the event of a collision, the defendant will in most cases be the vehicle manufacturer. The problem is that the legislation on product liability is much more complex than the management of insurance. One of the topics to
To resolve in this sense is the design of mechanisms that compensate victims quickly enough. The fact that civil liability derives from the vehicle manufacturer may lead to delays in the adoption of certain technologies until they have been reasonably tested
.

The regulations and standards will also play a very important role in the field of civil liability, since the non-adoption by a manufacturer of the admitted standards will be an argument to increase their liability in the event of accidents.
Final thoughts
As it has been observed in this article, the autonomous vehicle represents an innovation that goes far beyond technological evolution, directly affecting the economy, the territory and society. The consequences of its implementation are tremendously promising as well as uncertain. Open questions remain key how the impact that the autonomous vehicle will have on energy consumption, employment and spatial planning; as well as the way in which people will assume the change. In order to limit these uncertainties, it is essential to continue deepening our knowledge of the impacts that such innovation may have in the future.
Apart from these questions, it is true that in one way or another, sooner or later, important changes will occur that need to be anticipated. To the extent that it is better prepared, new challenges can be tackled better. The autonomous vehicle opens innumerable professional opportunities in the field of civil engineering -especially in what refers to the infrastructure equipment, and to the planning and coordination of mobility- that can not be underestimated.

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El vehículo autónomo (y IV): aspectos de responsabilidad civil
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