When driverless cars crash, who gets the blame and pays the damages?

THE WASHINGTON POST, 25 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

If anything about driverless cars can be considered an old riddle, it is this one: The car is driving itself down a residential street when a woman pushing a baby stroller suddenly enters a crosswalk. Unable to stop, should the car’s computer opt to hit mother and child, or veer off to strike a tree, almost certainly killing its passengers?

That macabre scenario has been fodder for ethicists almost since the prospect that cars might drive themselves first entered the horizon. It also, however, provides a second riddle: Regardless of the choice made by the car’s computer, who pays for the damages?

The car owner? The company that built it? The software developer?

Those questions are being debated nearly everywhere that lawyers and insurance brokers meet these days. While state governments and the courts ultimately will decide them, many have been addressed in a new study by one of the preeminent legal authorities on autonomous vehicles.

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