Driverless car risks making manufacturers liable for car accident compensation

by Robert Palmer - Date: 2007-07-01 - Word Count: 862 Share This!

A car has recently gone on display at London's Science Museum that could eventually have a dramatic impact on the nature of car accident compensation claims.

It is a driverless car called Lux, developed by German designers using the body and engine of a standard VW Passat. It operates independently of a remote control, instead mapping its course with twin 'laser eyes' which are mounted beneath the front headlights. A third 'laser eye' scans the road behind the car.

Stepping from the shadows of science-fiction
It is a development that once belonged to the realms of science-fiction imagining. Remember Kitt from Knightrider, Herbie from the eponymously titled films and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [insert italics for film titles] the adventurous flying car? Now, Lux, the Latin for light, can be added to that list of driverless capable vehicles. The only difference is that Lux is grounded in science-fact.

Though mass production of driverless cars is still forecast to take a number of years, as the necessary technology needs further tweaking and development, the spectre (perhaps literally) of the driverless car appearing on our roads in the not too distant future is a very real possibility. This will certainly raise some interesting questions in the world of personal injury solicitors.

If and when driverless cars eventually arrive on our roads, who will accept liability for car accident compensation claims? One can only imagine that it will be the manufacturers themselves, which provokes the question of how seriously they are taking the enterprise, for they will hardly want to accept the costly liability no win, no fee car accident compensation claims.

Considering the inevitable reluctance of car manufacturers to accept liability, could driverless cars just be a PR exercise with no ultimate aim? Wealthy car manufacturers will certainly have no intention of shooting themselves in the foot.

The race is on but there's no one under the crash helmet
So far Lux has only been tested at a speed of 15mph but on 3rd and 4th of November, that is due to change when it takes part in a driverless car race. The event will take place in realistic urban traffic conditions.

During the event, cars will reach speeds of up to 30mph. Cars will be programmed with a satellite map of the 60 mile route together with a checklist of places they have to visit along the way. There will be no human interference with the cars once the starting gun has fired. If a car accident claims any of the entrants along the way, there will be humanly driven trackers on hand to clear up. There is a ?1.5 million prize on offer for the winner.

A spokesperson for IBEO, the company who have developed the laser sensor technology in the car, said, "Much of the technology in this car will be available in standard cars within a couple of years. It will be up to Governments to decide whether the cars will be legally allowed to be driverless. But the technology exists now to do it."

What the future may hold
Bearing in mind that the vast majority of current car accident compensation claims are the result of bad or negligent driving on the part of a human driver, the question of potential liability is a very real one. There are other less serious, though equally curious questions aroused by driverless technology.

Could you send your driverless car up to the local shop with a neatly handwritten note to buy you breakfast on a Sunday morning? Will it be possible for hackers to interfere with the laser technology and maliciously cause car accidents? As there could be no foreseeable, legal or moral, impediment to travelling in a driverless car when intoxicated, surely drunk-driving accidents would become a thing of the past.

And while Lux's reaction time is impressively calculated at less than 100 milliseconds, are we ready to put our lives in the hands of technology risking a fatal car accident or serious personal injury over which we have no control? I imagine that the experience of most people in using wayward, periodically crashing home computers hardly instills a sense of optimism in the infallibility of technology.

What about petrol heads and boy racers? They will not easily forsake their positions behind the wheel - an experience many find liberating and empowering.

What about the repercussions for road rage? It is not hard to envisage a scene where a frustrated owner of an erratically performing driverless car, at his wits' end, rears up from the passenger seat, gets out of the car and angrily kicks his car into shortwiring submission.

I think it is safe to say that however developed the technology for driverless cars, unless manufacturers can absolve themselves of any potential liability for car accident compensation claims, it will be a while before we are all sitting back relaxing as we let the car do the driving.

This article may be published on another website free of charge, on the condition that a link is provided from this article to our website:
Simon Jacobs, Car Accident Advice Line
helps people to claim compensation after they have been injured in a car accident that was not their fault. You can call us now on 0808 143 43 42

Related Tags: german, no win no fee, serious, fatal, personal injury solicitors, car accident compensation, bo, lux, drunk-driving, vw passat, london science museum

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