Liability in self-driving car accidents: Germany makes it the clearest

2018-04-13  |  By Faye  |  In policy

The Committee on Future Investments in Japan released a policy on self-driving vehicle last Friday: Japanese government plans to attribute self-driving accident responsibility to car owners, and automakers bear responsibility only for accidents caused by defects in autonomous cars.

The policy will be submitted to Japanese Parliament as early as 2019, which will be applied to self-driving vehicles in L3 but not fully autonomous vehicles in L4 or L5, and relevant supervision and guidance will be enacted before 2020.

Not only is Japan devoted to developing self-driving vehicles, but also China, the US, Germany, South Korea and France are interested in it. Autonomous vehicles in these countries have been tested on the road; however, except Germany, the other six countries have no national legislation for liability in self-driving car accidents. In the following table, VehicleTrend summarize the current situation of liability for self-driving cars accidents in different countries.

The table shows that Germany has made legislation on self-driving the clearest among the seven countries. Owing to limited self-driving technology at present, revised version of Highway Traffic Act in Germany regulates that human drivers must stay in the seat to control self-driving vehicles at any time and the drivers should be in full charge of the car. German government considers that auto system can’t make or make in advance ethical decisions for human drivers, therefore automakers do not have to take direct responsibility for accident but only take producer and product liability under civil law.

Presently China makes no national policies on regulating autonomous driving, but guidelines published in some cities have initially revealed that testers inside self-driving cars have to undertake accident risk. Testing guidelines on self-driving vehicles have been published in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Fuzhou in China, and relevant policies in Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen are on the way, from which national policies regulating self-driving can be expected soon.

America, testing self-driving vehicles in high profile, actually makes no regulations defining self-driving accidents liability. Autonomous Driving System 2.0: Security Vision released in last September directly ignores ethic issues in self-driving vehicle accidents. In this case, it leads to unclear accident liability in recent Uber’s accident, arousing a global concern on self-driving legislation.

Governments of Japan, South Korea, Britain, and France have commenced autonomous vehicle testing, but currently they have no legal solutions solving self-driving accidents to protect rights of pedestrian. In any case, all countries are making great efforts to enact laws defining self-driving accidents liability.

VehicleTrend considers that popularization of self-driving vehicles closely ties to legislation defining explicit liability. According to countries which have legislated laws on self-driving, drivers driving autonomous vehicles from L1 to L3 undertake the ultimate liability if accidents occur, but to whom accidents liability for vehicles from L4 to L5 attribute to remains a question.

The greatest problem in self-driving automotive industry lies in the relevant legislation instead of technology breakthrough. Governments in all countries should enact explicit laws for this new industry to push self-driving being accepted by public. The revised Highway Traffic Act in Germany proves that the powerful auto-making nation has set a high value on self-driving, probably being an inspiration for all countries to make complete self-driving laws.

What’s more, technology breakthroughs in self-driving vehicles enlighten human beings and will push law making ahead.


Edited by VehicleTrend, If repost, please INDICATE the source.