Autonomous automobiles used to be the work of science fiction, thought of as a far-away fantasy never to be achieved. In today’s day and age, however, the technology for autonomous cars is already here, and it’s only getting better. How will the rise of driver-less vehicles impact American society, and the American judicial system?

Autonomous vehicles stand to revolutionize the very fabric of our society, regardless of how widespread they become. Even if experts and industry leaders are wrong, and autonomous vehicles don’t become the norm for travel and business, the mere presence of one autonomous vehicle necessitates a change in our legal and political systems.

Currently, huge sums of time and money are spent navigating legal issues of insurance for both vehicles and people. Should autonomous cars and trucks soon populate our roads and highways, lawyers and courts will no doubt find themselves inundated with a plethora of cases similar to today’s personal injury cases in the event of a car accident.

How will courtrooms react to data collected by these vehicles? How will lawyers formulate and present cases against robotic vehicles? These questions, and more, should be at the forefront of any would-be legal scholar’s mind.

It is likely that autonomous vehicles will be safer and more efficient drivers than humans could ever hope to be, though this doesn’t mean car accidents will cease to happen. Personal injury and insurance lawyers will soon go toe-to-toe with the manufacturers of these vehicles when they seek restitution, and both federal and state governments will be called upon to regulate the industry.
Questions abound over liability for the actions of a robotic vehicle. If an autonomous car crashes into a group of pedestrians, or strikes another vehicle operated by a human, who is held at fault? Will companies be able to seek restitution should a human driver disable or destroy their autonomous vehicle, given that no human life was endangered? This bizarre mix of property, criminal, and personal injury law will only grow more and more complex as time goes on and technology advances.
Society will continue to struggle with these questions as it does over similar ones related to automation; how will truckers, who make up a bulk of new jobs in many U.S. states, legally deal with being replaced by machines?

What are your thoughts on autonomous vehicles? Should they be permitted and encouraged, or restricted?

Autonomous Cars – The Coming Legal Battle