The legal, ethical and moral issues arising from the advent of the driverless car are profound. Highly automated vehicles, HAVs, will shift the burden of safely operating a vehicle from human to machine. In the long run this will release us from some legal obligations but in the short term could lead to havoc on the roads.
Most personal injury lawyers in North America have already began dealing with the effect of automation even if they do not know it. Automatic braking systems, rear view cameras, and hands free phone systems are already leading to accident injuries on our roads. In all these automated systems the fail safe has always been the human operator, until now.
In March 2018, a self-driving Uber Volvo XC90 operating in self-driving or autonomous mode hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. This self-driving car death shows that even the most sophisticated HAV systems rely on the human operator to be attentive. This case was apparently quickly settled, with no pubic responsibility attributed to Uber or Volvo. This could be the future when it comes to the corporate accountability.
Ontario, not British Columbia, was the first Canadian Province to allow automated vehicle testing on public roads. The Ontario Ministry of Transport approved regulatory rules in early 2016. At the end of 2016 the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, CCMTA, produced a white paper that outlines some of the liability issues of auto accident but focuses primarily on the benefits of driverless car technology for business and government.
Our current NDP government is behind the times and has instead focused in denying rights to innocent victims of car accident injuries. The NDP will be in the pockets of the auto industry in the same way they are with ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. We will need to reintroduce the tort system in a way that protects the people of BC from the politics of the day. We need a system to protect innocent victims in a way that does not reward corporate and government monopolies for negligence. Innocent victims of personal injury deserve to be compensated for the loss of quality of life in addition to the loss of income and health costs associated with the negligent driving that led to their injury.
Our current NDP government has been myopic in their regressive reforms of the auto insurance system. In an age where injury victims are being silently paid off in the name of the almighty dollar, our NDP coalition government has become part of the problem, not the solution. The NDP coalition vision of a government run insurance company is naive and dangerous in the face of the self-driving car. In the end the NDP will be protecting ICBC, Uber, Volvo, Tesla, GM, Ford and Argo AI, Honda and Waymo and all the other companies that will gain huge profits on the backs of the injured.
Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.– Representing auto injury victims for over 22 years.