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Robotics and the Law
Robotics and the Law

Program on Autonomous Driving and Liability

On December 9, 2010, three of us, Ryan Calo, Dan Siciliano, and I will be presenting a continuing legal education program entitled “Sudden Acceleration Into the Future:  Liability from Autonomous Driving and Robotics” in San Francisco.  Sven Beiker of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) and Douglas Robinson of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. will join us on the panel.  The program will be one of the track sessions at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada.

The program description reads:

“Over the next decades, the automotive industry will see sweeping changes, including adopting technology for autonomous vehicles that drive themselves to a destination.  At the same time, products liability poses a challenge for the industry and for robotics generally, especially after alleged sudden acceleration phenomena and resulting litigation.  See a snapshot of the future of the automotive industry, discuss the litigation and products liability challenge to autonomous driving, hear some of the public policy ideas for supporting the nascent field of robotics, and learn about changes in defense practice that will be necessary to defend motor vehicle cases in future decades.”

I will write again after the program to summarize some of the ideas exchanged by the panel.  We know that driver assistance systems, and eventually autonomous driving systems, will save many lives.  At the same time, the systems will not be perfect and will cause some accidents, deaths, and injuries.  On balance, the net effect of adopting anticipated autonomous driving technologies will be to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage.

How do we encourage the adoption of technologies by industry and consumers that save lives on balance, even though in individual products liability cases, it may be that these same technologies have caused harm to specific people?  The panelists will address this and many other questions concerning liability arising from autonomous driving.

For more information about the Association of Defense Counsel’s Annual Meeting or to register for the program, click here.

3 Responses to “Program on Autonomous Driving and Liability”

  1. I have no doubt in my mind that driving assistance technology is nearer than many think. Would the roads also be equipped with the technology to communicate with the vehicle?

  2. Stephen Wu says:

    Stacey, the short answer is that road or infrastructure communications with vehicles is one possibility. Sven Beiker sent me an email stating, “there is already quite some driver assistance technology out there and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication might be an important piece for autonomous driving (meaning that there is an operator or at least a way to shut down a vehicle” in the event that is needed).

  3. [...] of the work they are doing on driverless cars. In December, members of the law school staff gave a presentation on “Liability from Autonomous Driving” at a San Francisco law conference. The [...]

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