General Motors has quietly settled a lawsuit stemming from an accident involving one of its self-driving cars being tested on the streets of San Francisco.
Autonomous vehicles testing in real-world conditions have been in a number of accidents in recent months. And as more testing is allowed on public roads, there will be more accidents — and more lawsuits.
It will take a long time before we have enough real-world experience to understand liability and culpability in these cases. I imagine several lawsuits will be decided in higher courts.
Because there may not be a driver, determining liability is going to be a challenge. The manufacturer, supplier and, yes, the dealer who sold the vehicle will be sucked into a legal battle to figure out who pays.
Companies such as GM with deep pockets, as shown by its payouts in cases involving faulty ignition switches, will try to settle lawsuits before they get to court. An unpredictable jury would be a big risk and the outcome could be a nightmare.
Someone will have to figure out who is responsible when you pull the driver out of the car. Each side is probably going to blame the other guy.
Make no mistake. The number of accidents will increase as companies test more vehicles on public roads.
I still do not understand why automakers do not take advantage of the vast number of proving grounds around the world that have been used for decades to test vehicles.
The lawyers are going to be the big winners. Hopefully, there will not be big losers in terms of injury or loss of life.