If a self-driving car caused an accident or death, who's at fault?

What are the legal consequences if an accident or death is caused as a result of mechanical failure on a driverless car?

Asked on 30 April 2021 by henry kerswell

Answered by Georgia Petrie
I'll start out by saying this isn't our area of expertise — we're motoring journalists with a decent understanding of the law as it pertains to our industry but this isn't the point of view of a legal professional. With that said, it's hard to know what would happen as 1) there would be a lot of factors under investigation and 2) I'm not sure there's been a legal precedent yet set for these instances as we don't yet (legally) have level 5 automated cars in the UK. I would assume that if the car was low level automated then the driver would be held at fault due to the fact that they still legally have to be ready to take back control of the car. That was the case when a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a cyclist in the USA in 2018. The BBC reported on why the driver was charged with negligent homicide here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-54175359

As for mechanical failure, that's much more of an unknown and would depend on the circumstances.
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