It is just a tractor, right?
Actually farm equipment has been leading the autonomous vehicle technology. For about 10 years there have been commercially available tractors that will drive themselves. What does that have to do with this article?
Imagine a world in the near future where autonomous cars are a thing. Not just a fringe thing, but mainstream. Let’s say two of them crash into each other. What happens next?
Well, it is hard to imagine that the owner is financially responsible. They can turn around and hold the car manufacturer responsible. The car manufacturer could then hold the component manufacturer responsible who could, in turn, hold the company that developed the firmware responsible. Financial responsibility ends up in the right place, the company that developed the code that caused the crash. There will be lots of changes in the insurance industries and lots of hands in the pot, but that is essentially how it will happen if they find a cause of the accident.
But what if there is a twist? The person who owns the car bought the car as a second-hand car. Well, that doesn’t really matter as long as everything above holds true. But if “right to repair” laws exist then there may be no way to truly find a root cause. What if somebody bought an unauthorized part, or modified the code himself? The line of liability is easy if you can only have your car repaired at authorized dealers with authorized parts. Anything less than that is blurring the lines of liability. We are going to have to confront this question as a society and it isn’t as simple as the article would have you to believe.