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Google's Self Steering Car & Road Traffic Accident Claims

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

Google having recently introduced the self driving car, are not just taking simple steps in the development of IT hardware, but huge leaps.

Some American states, namely California, Nevada, Florida & Michigan already allow self driving vehicles on their roads as long as a human driver is behind the wheel at all times. The article I read does not indicate whether the human driver needs to be awake at all times.

We as drivers forget that we are driving what is a lethal weapon. The nature of the injuries sustained in road traffic accidents bears witness to this and therefore the technology which I saw recently, providing cars with sensors to stop in case there is an obstacle in its path, must be welcomed.

The point about all of this technology is that whilst I fully accept arguments that the technology will be tested to the greatest extent, it still has the potential to go wrong. If it does, it begs the question whether the people injured as a result should be entitled to bring a compensation claim against the owner or ‘driver’ of the vehicle.

The owner of course will say they did nothing wrong. They sat in the vehicle and watched it go. In the case of the new Google car, they did not even have the ability to be able to steer the vehicle. I understand there is no steering wheel or pedals.

I am quite sure there are numerous fail-safes in the system to ensure that self driving car accidents do not happen.

However if they do, I have no doubt that the injured person is likely to bring a car accident claim against the owner of the vehicle; and that the owner of the vehicle will subsequently bring a claim, or what is known as Part 20 proceedings in the UK, against the manufacturer.

Similar to a product recall by a manufacturer where there is a defect found in the product, the whole thing might potentially become very expensive indeed.

Tristan Hallam is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.