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?