According to Anthony Hallett’s article in the latest Subrogator magazine drones will prove a disruptive technology that will change industries, like subrogation, in the near future. Drones will improve safety regarding forensic inspections and investigations. Due to the high degree of control and the ability to harness LiDAR and photogrammetry these drones will enable investigators to conduct investigations from a safe distance. There will be uncertainty regarding the safe operation of drones and how to attribute liability in the event of an accident. Therefore, subrogation professionals will have to stay abreast of changes in federal and state legislation dealing with drones. The inevitable accidents that due occur as the use of drones proliferates means that subrogation professionals will have to learn how to investigate drone accidents and attribute fault based on local and federal laws. Lastly, the insurance industry as a whole will have to come to terms with the fluid risk/benefit calculus in the face of unmanned aircraft. This extends to the use of autonomous vehicles on American roads too. These vehicles will most likely prove drastically safer than human drivers, this will have huge ripple effects on the insurance industry.
The state of Nevada recently passed a measure effectively creating a new class of driver’s licenses for robot controlled cars. The impetus for the measure arose from Google’s desire to get their robot-controlled cars on the road while circumventing the often deadlocked California legislature.
Google outfitted the vehicles with an $80,000 roof-mounted, cone shaped laser along with front and rear mounted radar. The sensory technology feeds the computer data while taking advantage of highly-detailed Google maps on board. The NPR technology correspondent who reported on this story remarked on the ease at which the vehicle responded to traffic conditions, like the vehicle being cut-off, with aplomb. In fact, the radar’s signals, which bounce off of surfaces, allowed the car to “see” a vehicle in front of an 18-wheeler that the human passengers could not.
Google’s Robotic Car
How Does This Affect Insurance Subrogation?
The legal issues presented by registered, insured robotic vehicles are many, but there are a few glaring issues that are self-evident. First, there is the evidenciary issue of a robot-human car collision. The human can testify in court, while the car’s on-board video could theoretically be introduced as evidence. Would a representative from the car manufacturer have to appear in court in every case in order to get the video into evidence? Another thorny issue arises when choosing the theory of recovery. Would a human sue the manufacturer for a product defect, alleging a software or hardware malfunction? Could there arise a new negligence standard in relation to autonomous machines that takes into consideration some inherent risks accompanying an artificial intelligence driving? Finally, could the English system of jurisprudence, based upon a human standard of “negligence,” accommodate a case involving two robotic controlled cars that collided? Would there come a point where a plaintiff has to reach a higher burden of proof alleging robotic negligence than the current burden for humans?