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Who's Responsible If a Self-Driving Truck Harms Someone?

According to IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), 3986 people died in a collision involving a large truck in 2016, as reported to USDOT's statistics. While the truck is often not at fault, one can only suspect the trend will continue when driver-less trucks hit the road soon. 

If a regular truck (with a driver) is at fault for an accident, the victim can sue the driver, the trucking company (carrier), and possibly the client (who hired the carrier). However, the manufacturer of the truck cannot be sued unless there is a major mechanical defect or defective design or such that could involve them. 

But who's at fault if the truck is driver-less? Can you now sue the manufacturer of the truck for a "defective" AI? 

In an Axios report about all autonomous vehicle traffic accidents in California from 2014-2018 as reported to the California DMV, only 1 out of 38 accidents that happened while the vehicle was in autonomous mode was judged to be at fault of the autonomous vehicle. 

Yet a majority of people polled in August 2018 by Axios and Survey Monkey felt unsafe about AVs. And this statistic is confirmed by a AAA poll in May 2018: people are fearful of autonomous vehicles, either around it, or be driven by one.  This was not helped by the fatality in Tempe Arizona caused by an Uber AV. Uber settled with the victim's family within three weeks of the accident as well as pulled its entire AV testing operation from the state of Arizona. 

A new bill called AV-Start Act, purportedly to jumpstart even more autonomous vehicle development, included provisions that would force passengers of an autonomous vehicle to arbitration only. And consumers advocates are already crying foul. 

An investment analyst said the freight equipment makers could not be sued based on current liability laws even if the truck is an autonomous vehicle, and there is no driver to sue. This legal loophole can cause a perception problem with AV, which will make AV adoption more difficult in the future. 

J Ruble and Sons have plenty of regular trucks and trailers in our inventory for your business while the autonomous vehicle market sort itself out, whenever that happens.