Artificial intelligence is invading our lives, not to say ruling them. Look around you, and you will find a connected object, an element devoid of a simple form of intelligence, capable of responding to you when you speak to it, or simply of adapting to its environment, like robot vacuum cleaners. For those who have a fairly recent vehicle, you even have a slew of driving aids (most of which have become mandatory) that make up the ground for tomorrow’s autonomous driving. But while the first tests on open roads begin in Germany and France, the question of responsibility still arises in the event of an accident. And until today, no one has been able to answer it.
Autonomous car accident, who is responsible?
And that’s the million dollar question that no one is really able to answer. Obviously, the manufacturers who today put “autonomous” cars (not totally, but level 3) on the roads must have communicated on the subject. One thinks in particular of Mercedes, which has been circulating for some time S-Class and EQS equipped with the new Drive Pilot technology. The German brand clarified things from the outset: in the event of an accident, it is the manufacturer who will take responsibility if the mode was activated under the appropriate conditions.
Yes, but here, behind this simplistic facade hides a much more complex reality.. Manufacturers never work alone on such projects, which bring together the brand’s experts and engineers, but also equipment from suppliers and sometimes even lines of code typed by developers who work for third parties. So in case of fault or accident, who should pay the bill? The builder alone? The manufacturer and the equipment supplier involved in the fault? This is precisely what the European Commission is trying to clarify.
Simplify life for complainants
A European directive protects people in the event of material damage caused by a fault in the product. They can then hold the manufacturer accountable. But it dates back to 1985 and is no longer suited to the world we live in, which is increasingly blending into AI.
This is well summed up by a European lobby group: “As we see with AI, new technologies are creating interdependencies between developers, vendors and users, which can blur the lines of who is responsible for what. So for AI, we need to bridge these legal gaps in order to better assess the individual contribution of each actor and an appropriate line of causality“.
To better break down the different scenarios, several scenarios emerge according to the EU : “These are cases where the manufacturer fails to provide the information elements, or if the product does not meet the safety requirements. These are also cases of obvious malfunctions, or if the causal link is impossible to prove due to the technical or scientific complexity of the product. This last scenario aims to prevent the “black box” effect of AI systems that can be beyond the comprehension of their own developers. In these cases, the claimant will only need to prove that the AI in question contributed to the damage and that the product is likely to be defective.“. Each time, you will notice that the person responsible is never the driver. But only if he has used the autonomous driving technology in the right conditions! Clearly, motorists who are having fun in particular overseas Atlantic to get in the back seat of their Tesla while the car is driving alone would theoretically not be covered and therefore 100% responsible.
Finally, these directives taken by the EU aim to make life easier for people experiencing incidents with an autonomous vehicle or any object equipped with an AI. Complainants will not have to “describe and demonstrate” the malfunctioning of the AI. They may even have access to certain internal manufacturer data to confirm the brand’s degree of responsibility. Suffice to say that car manufacturers will have to pay attention to the development of their autonomous driving systems.
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Autonomous car: in the event of an accident, who is responsible?
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