The future legal shenanigans that will shift liability for pedestrian fatalities involving self-driving Ubers

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Let’s not forget criminal liability. Many auto fatalities are manslaughter. If the don’t maintain, program adeqautely or provide security for the cars - who go to prison?


I still firmly believe that all autonomous vehicles should be nationalized and operated by local municipalities. I have far more faith in governments ability to come up with workable, transparent regulatory regimes that protect people over profits.


The problem here is that there’s the premise that drivers who hit pedestrians face consequences. In the SF Bay, at least, even in cases where drivers were found to be at fault or suspected of a crime, only 40% even faced charges. Of those that faced charges, less than 60% even faced any suspension of their licenses, less than 5% faced any real jail time, etc. If you kill someone, kill them with a car - the punishments are far lower than for accidental killings by any other means. The entire system is set up with the recognition that it’s really easy to kill people with cars and people are often negligent drivers, but also that the system doesn’t want to punish people for that. The possibility of civil damages is kept open even when drivers don’t face charges, which means that even when the driver is human, a fine is all they’re likely to face as well.

No one, just like when it’s human beings that are fully responsible. Autonomous cars are actually quite a smart area to get into, in terms of liability - at least when it comes to hitting and killing people. They’re far more likely to get into trouble with non-fatal accidents involving other automobiles.


only 40% even faced charges.

which is not no one.

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Except those 40% were not looking at jail time, though. In that 40%, most of them were not facing the risk of any jail time. Convictions resulting in jail time are vanishingly rare (even rarer is anyone getting more than a year in jail) - and keep in mind we’re only talking about people found to be at fault/criminally negligent here. It’s only the slightest amount of hyperbole to say no one goes to prison.


This is a bad thing only to the extent that AI drivers have a worse safety record than human drivers do.

Which is already not the case - even with this death, the number of fatalities and injuries per mile driven is much lower for AI than humanity.

And while a human driver can learn from an accident they’re in (until they forget, unless they’re too arrogant or stupid to learn at all), every AI driver can learn from an accident any one of them is in, and they don’t forget what they learned.

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I’m increasingly unsure that autonomous cars can mix with pedestrians at all. If we demand that implementation waits until they are really safe, then everyone starts jaywalking all the time and the cars basically can’t move in denser areas. Or we just accept that they aren’t safe, because we want the gee-whiz technology, and cities get even more dangerous for pedestrians. We’ve already gone through one radical shift in what society holds as acceptable risk when we made jaywalking a crime in the first place. I can all too easily imagine that going even farther, once an computer is involved which can guiltlessly mow down anyone who dares to think that city streets are for people, not vehicles.

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can I get insurance to protect me if I’m sued by the parents of a bunch of kids who died on a bus when I didn’t push a fat man in the way of the Uber that hated that bus?

This article doesn’t delineate how a police stop would work with one of these vehicles.

I suppose there will not be a “run from the police” button ? Or will that be a service that I have to subscribe to, too ?

In California, at least, it will cost you about $800/year to create and maintain a C corporation (I think an LLC is the same), Nevada is something like $600 these days, so building in a fleet of SPVs for your fleet of cars is hardly a bargain compared simply to having a better insurance policy.

SPVs make a great deal of sense for things like power plants or Trump properties, I doubt they pencil out for cars.



And yes, the “trolley problem” will be “solved” by comparing subscription prices. So bad news for anyone who can’t afford anything but the adware-based “free” version.

Citation needed.

It is surely the occupants who are (at least partially) liable. It is they who elected to roam around the streets in a giant, high-speed robot. Similarly, and for the same reason, the robot should be programmed to prioritize their lives dead-last in “trolley problem” situations.


Limited liability corporations sounded like a great idea back when the world was young. Who could have imagined then the kind of chaos a corporation might cause? These days there’s seemingly no upper limit to the deaths and environmental damage an LLC can avoid responsibility for, as long as legal firepower is cheaper than owning consequences.


This shows that a lot of fatalities are manslaughter, so your citation supports your assertion. My issue is that many vehicular manslaughters rarely attract any meaningful sort of censure. Unless there is some additional factor such as impaired driving, negligently killing someone with your car is usually treated as an “oopsie”, and accepted as a cost of our convenience.

What’s your reference for that?

What about elderly people who opted for a self-driving car because they wanted a safer option than continuing to drive themselves? What about people with disabilities such as partial paralysis or blindness that would prevent them from driving at all?

It seems to me that once self-driving cars become legal on public roads, blaming the passengers for an accident would be akin to blaming the passengers of a taxi or a limo. After all, THEY were the ones who elected to roam the streets in a vehicle piloted by a fallible human operator.