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How Will Google Avoid Liability For Driverless Car Accidents

June 5, 2015

In the U.S., we have laws to protect people who are hurt by product defects. Not only do we have safety agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but they can require companies to recall products with dangerous design or production faults. We also have the product liability lawsuit, which can hold manufacturers, distributors and even retailers financially liable for allowing faulty products into the stream of commerce.

Nevertheless, there are innumerable product recalls every year, many of them prompted by real people getting injured. Can’t they just build safer products in the first place?

Well, that appears to be what Google is planning when it comes to its driverless car. They’re just going to go right ahead and make a car that’s safer than, well, one that’s driven by a human being.

Although the Google car isn’t available yet, it is being tested on a limited basis. In fact, an anonymous motorcyclist from Google’s hometown went as far as to write a review of the vehicle, from the point of view of a fellow traveler, at least.

The motorcyclist described himself as a “car nut” who does love to drive, and his overall review was positive.

“I actually do feel safer around a self-driving car than most other California drivers,” he wrote. That said, he wasn’t always sure whether the Google cars he observed were being driven by human operators or not.

Why might that be? “Google cars drive like your grandma.”

That is to say, Google cars don’t take risks. They don’t jockey for position, speed, tailgate or break the law — or traffic safety principles — at all.

“They’re never the first off the line at a stop light, they don’t accelerate quickly, they don’t speed, and they never take any chances with lane changes (cut people off, etc.),” the reviewer wrote, “but if I had been behind it I probably would have been annoyed at how long it took to actually commit to pull out and turn.”

Ultimately, the reviewer gave the Google cars 5 stars and a “would buy” rating. Maybe we really will be better off with more grandma-like drivers on the road.

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