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Self-Driving Cars Already Raising a Number of Legal Questions


By now, most people know that self-driving cars are soon to be a reality thanks to companies like Google, Ford and Volvo who are all pushing ahead to make this science fiction become a science reality. But as the Washington Post recently discovered in February of this year, the hype about self-driving cars is only matched by the number of questions they raise.

After posting an article regarding the federal government's decision to recognize Google's software as a driver, the Washington Post received dozens of responses from readers, many of which contained questions many people across the nation, including here in California, are now wondering.

Here is a list of seven we wanted to highlight for you because of their legal ramifications:

1. If a self-driving car crashes, is the carmaker to blame?

2. If someone dies in a crash, is the driver or carmaker sent to jail on criminal charges?

3. How will self-driving cars affect insurance rates?

4. Will the driver's ability to operate the vehicle factor into a possible crash?

5. Will someone with a suspended or revoked license be allowed to drive?

6. If a hacker crashes a self-driving car, who is held liable?

7. If there is a crash, who does the victim sue?

While many of these questions focus on liability, particularly in accidents, self-driving cars do raise other important questions, such as those concerning insurance rates and how criminal acts will be handled.

Though existing personal injury - particularly products liability laws - address questions concerning liability and seeking compensation after a crash, questions concerning insurance rates and criminal charges will take time to address, particularly if new laws need to be passed.

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