‘How far is the law of tort ready to adapt to driverless cars?’

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In its July 2016 Consultation Paper, ‘Pathway to Driverless Cars: Proposals to support advanced driver assistance systems and automated vehicle technologies’, the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport concluded:

‘We are not currently proposing any significant change in our rules on liability in road traffic accidents to reflect the introduction of automated cars. We still think a fault based approach combined with existing product liability law, rather than a new strict liability regime, is the best approach for our legal system. We think that the existing common law on negligence should largely be able to adapt to this new technology’

What impact will the evolution of driverless cars have on the application of existing common law principles of negligence of a human actor where harm is caused in a road traffic accident? Should a driver be liable for an omission to engage (or disengage) onboard automotive assistance? What standard of care is expected of a driver stepping in to take control? How far are perceptions of trust and risk relevant to a transitional phase with a mix of autonomous and non-autonomous traffic? What new risks are created by autonomous vehicles, such as reliance on third party services (such as mapping), interoperability failures with other systems (such as highway control), faults in data collection and sharing (such as telemetrics and onboard records of driver autonomy) and of cyber-security comprises (including hacked systems).

The common law of negligence is predicated on the piecemeal development of principles and their application incrementally through case law and decisions of appellate courts. That is a naturally time-consuming process, and recent reform proposals may remove many road traffic accident claims from the litigation process. Is the civil justice system equipped effectively to deal with driverless vehicles?

This presentation hopes to explore some of these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2017
EventFourth Winchester Conference on Trust, Risk and Information and the Law - University of Winchester, Winchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 May 20173 May 2017


ConferenceFourth Winchester Conference on Trust, Risk and Information and the Law
Abbreviated titleTRIL 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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