If a self-driving vehicle crashes, who is responsible?


Drivers are familiar with the difficult task of assessing fault and navigating insurance claims following an accident. What happens if there’s no driver involved in an accident?

As technology improves and countries prepare for greater automation on the roads, this hypothetical is rapidly approaching. The United Kingdom has unveiled a roadmap for self-driving cars. It is expected to be in place by 2025. It is clear that accidents may occur when the vehicle is in self-driving mode.vehicle 

Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary, stated that the UK wants to be at forefront of the development and use of this amazing technology. “This is why we invest millions in safety research and enacting the laws to ensure that we reap the full benefits of this technology.

The UK’s plan will include new legislation. This is a global patchwork of regulations that sees different countries adopting different policy frameworks.

France was the first country to approve a national regulatory system for self-driving vehicles. This policy will go into effect in September and waives drivers’ liability when self-driving vehicles. Japan and Germany also have liability protections in place for automated vehicle users.

The United States has fragmented regulation because policy-making has been largely delegated to the states. This has made liability issues more ambiguous and drivers are sometimes held responsible. Two people were killed in an auto-driving accident in 2019, for example. The first criminal prosecution of its type, vehicular manslaughter was brought to light by California in January 2019.

There is an effort by the US federal government for a universal framework to self-driving vehicles that will update regulations and enshrine safety standards. It will also include legal responsibilities such as liability protection. A dozen legislators sent a letter to US Department of Transportation in April, asking them to create a comprehensive federal policy on AVs.

Maya Ben Dror (World Economic Forum’s industry manager, automotive and new mobility), stated that “removing scaling barriers such as obsolete regulations will speed up positive impact.” It is not surprising that the UK, which is a world leader in inclusive AV policymaking, has released an updated liability report.

Manufacturers of cars have taken measures to address liability concerns. Volvo stated in 2015 that it would take liability for cars used in self-driving modes. This pledge was made by the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo.


A growing consensus is influencing the question of who should be held responsible. Self-driving cars are expected to be safer that traditional human-driven vehicles. In fact, 80% of all road accidents today are caused by human error.

Advocates believe that self-driving cars will make streets safer for pedestrians and drivers if they are properly developed and equipped with safety guardrails. For safety research, the new UK framework has allocated PS34 million.

Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association in the UK, stated that assisted driving systems such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking are helping drivers to stay safe on the roads. The ultimate prize is worth it, as it will save thousands of lives and improve mobility for the elderly and those who are less mobile.

However, the self-driving vehicle safety standards are not as comprehensive as those for liability protections.

“Globally, there is limited consensus on how to define milestones for AV safety, since the problem of defining safety invariably becomes a function of the operating environment,” the World Economic Forum’s

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