As We Approach our Autonomous Future, Will Products Liability Law Hold Us Back or Shove Us Forward?

Posted on Categories Public, Tort LawLeave a comment» on As We Approach our Autonomous Future, Will Products Liability Law Hold Us Back or Shove Us Forward?

Arizona Appellate Court Revives Plaintiff’s Claim that Vehicle that Struck Her was Defective By Virtue of Not Including Autonomous Safety Feature

In recent years, highly autonomous vehicles have acquired a reputation as a technology that is perpetually just a few years away.  Meanwhile, their Car Wreckenormous promise continues to tantalize.  AVs have the potential to transform American life in a variety of ways, reducing costs both large and small.  From virtually eliminating the roughly 40,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries we suffer in car accidents every year to making it possible to commute to work while sleeping, AVs are seen as enormously promising.

Against this backdrop, many torts scholars have expressed concern that imposing liability on AV manufacturers threatens to slow or even deter AV development.  When AVs take the wheel, will the companies that make them also take on liability for whatever crashes they can’t avoid?  AV development also raises the possibility—much less commonly noticed—of new liability for manufacturers of conventional vehicles.  If AVs are significantly safer, will courts and juries come to see conventional vehicles as defective?  According to a recent Arizona appellate court opinion, the answer is… maybe so.

Continue reading “As We Approach our Autonomous Future, Will Products Liability Law Hold Us Back or Shove Us Forward?”

Autonomous Vehicle Malfunctions May Not Be So Complicated After All

Posted on Categories Computer Law, Public, Tort LawLeave a comment» on Autonomous Vehicle Malfunctions May Not Be So Complicated After All

NTSB’s Final Report on Pedestrian Fatality Involving an Uber AV Highlights Obvious Programming Missteps

On a dark street in Tempe, Arizona just before 10 p.m. on March 18, 2018, an Uber vehicle being tested in autonomous mode hit and killed a pedestrian.  This was the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle, and it triggered a media firestorm that caused Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle program for nine months as it worked with the NTSB to understand the causes of the crash.  With the adoption by the NSTB of its final report on the crash on November 19, that work is now complete.

The NTSB’s final report paints a vivid picture of programming and human missteps that belies the argument commonly advanced in legal scholarship about AV liability — that crashes involving AVs will be impossible for the judges, juries, and doctrines that make up our current system of tort law to “understand.”  Indeed, the errors that led to the crash were all too simple. Continue reading “Autonomous Vehicle Malfunctions May Not Be So Complicated After All”