When an automaker promises its semi self-driving car technology will handle various portions of the task at hand, who’s responsibility is it when a crash occurs? GM says it will take full responsibility should an accident take place.
However, the situation gets muddy very quickly. Although autonomous driving systems allow drivers to place less focus on the road in front of them, GM says the current technology—Level 2 self-driving systems like Super Cruise—still require the driver’s attention.
“In a Super Cruise situation, because the driver is still in the driver’s seat, and they are supposed to be driving, and the car is helping them, the driver is still liable,” GM’s head of innovation, Warwick Stirling, told Car Advice.
“[As for] the question of liability, if the driver is not driving, the driver is not liable. The car is driving,” he added. GM’s response is a stark contrast from Tesla, which notably passed all blame onto a driver who was killed in a crash after engaging Autopilot, another Level 2 autonomous system. A federal investigation eventually cleared Tesla of any wrongdoing.
Stirling’s comments mark the first time an automaker committed to taking responsibility in the event of a crash when the car handles the driving. However, what happens when cars become even more automated? Stirling says more of the liability will continue to fall on the automaker, fleet owner, or service operator—not the driver (passenger?)
“In level four, there’s likely to be no steering wheel no pedal, you’re not driving so you’re not liable,” he said. “[It will be] a combination of the fleet owner, OEM, and the service provider [that] will cover the insurance. It’s going to be a capital liability; it’s going to be a complex space.”
What a brave new world.