In an unprecedented and surprising move, Swedish auto major, Volvo cars has announced that they will accept "full liability" if their fully autonomous car is involved in an accident. The announcement was made by President and chief executive officer Håkan Samuelsson, making Volvo the first manufacturer to claim such a position. Hakan will elaborate on the announcement in Washington D.C this Thursday.
Ever since autonomous cars have come to the limelight, the question over the legal implications has started making the round. And while making the technology is difficult enough, manufacturers feel that the legal ramifications are worse. And figuring out who would be at the fault while a self-driving car is involved in an accident, has been a cause of worry for almost all the players involved.
Surprisingly, Volvo, who is at the forefront of safety in cars, is not a big name when it comes to autonomous cars. Volvo believes that the cars should be safe enough to be ready for self-driving capability. They have started working on the autonomous technology and fear that the technology will be delayed because of legal complexities.
America, where most of the autonomous car study is going on, is among the forerunners to allow autonomous cars to test in public space. Four U.S states, including Nevada, California, Florida and Michigan allow self-driving cars to ply on the public roads, but there are no clear guidelines, as to whom to implicate if something goes south.
"The U.S. risks losing its leading position due to the lack of federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles," Samuelsson said. "Europe has suffered to some extend by having a patchwork of rules and regulations. It would be a shame if the U.S. took a similar path."
While the study and tests on the autonomous driving is growing at a rapid pace, few have answered the question of legality, and the announcement by Volvo is a major step ahead in a right direction. Apart from auto manufacturers like Volvo, Audi and Mercedes, technology manufacturers like Delphi and I.T giants like Google are a major name in the self-driving car industry.
"Nevada had lane markings that were shorter dots, and other places, painted stripes almost washed out," said Michael Pozsar, Delphi's vice president of electronic controls. "Our vision systems have to be tuned to ensure we can differentiate that. What would be better would be better harmonization across the United States."
Apart from legal issues, insurance and cyber-security are another area which is a point of concern for the autonomous car manufacturers. Samuelsson will also address the cyber-security weaknesses in the cars tomorrow. Volvo has always regarded car hacking as a criminal offense. Samuelsson, also feels that the autonomous technology will be ready for public deployment soon, and legal framework is not yet ready.
We have extensively covered autonomous driving in the past and will continue doing so, as we feel it is the future of the automobiles, be it the Google car, or be the Delphi's cross country tour.