Volvo will take blame if a self-driving car is in a crash

Steven Loeb · October 7, 2015 · Short URL:

Other car manufacturers, including Google and Apple, have not taken similar stances

The idea of the driverless car certainly sounds cool, until you think about it for a few more seconds, after which a lot of questions should pop into your mind. Chief among them, if one of these cars gets into an accident?

Spoiler alert: that will happen, and then who is responsible? If there's no driver in the other car, is the person who is driving automatically at fault? What if there's nobody in either car? It's an open question for an emerging industry, but at least one car manufacturer would like to put it behind us.

Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said on Wednesday that the company "will accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode."

This is a big statement for the company to make, not only because it makes it one of the first car makers in the world to make such a promise, but because it distances itself from companies like Google, who would like you to think that their vehicles are infallible and that any problems are arise are, naturally, the fault of other drivers.

The declaration of responsibility will come in speech from Samuelsson later today regarding regulation over the self-driving car industry. He urged the United States to establish federal guidelines for the technology, rather than doing it on a state by state basis.

“The US risks losing its leading position due to the lack of Federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles,” Samuelsson will say.

“The absence of one set of rules means car makers cannot conduct credible tests to develop cars that meet all the different guidelines of all 50 US states."

The speech will also address another contentious issue, and one that actually ties into the problem of responsibility: what if a car is hacked by a third party? To Samuelsson this is criminal offense, but it also up to the manufacturers to make sure they are keeping cars safe.

“We are constantly evolving defensive software to counter the risks associated with hacking a car. We do not blame Apple, or Microsoft for computer viruses or hackers."

Like it or not, the self-driving car is coming, and very soon if people like Elon Musk and Sam Altman are to be believed. People have been ready for them for years now. This is happening. The only question is who will get their first.

The race seems to be between Google and Apple, with Uber also throwing its hat into the ring pretty late in the game.

Google has been at the forefront of the self driving car moment for years. It began testing them in 2011 in Nevada and the cars are already legal in various states. The company is well on its way toward commercialization. The vision proposed would be of self-driving cars roaming our city streets as Yellow cars are. You wouldn't even need to book them in advance, as a hand gesture would suffice.

Last month Google hiredTrueCar president John Krafcik as CEO of its self-driving car project, as part of the company's restructuring as Alphabet. It also began testing the cars in Austin. 

Uber, which announced earlier this year that it is working on its own self-driving vehicles at the Advanced Technologies Center located Pittsburgh, Pa, near the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) campus. The facility is the offspring of a strategic partnership between Uber and CMU.

It is Apple, though, that might get there first. The company recently stated that it planned to have its first car done by 2019. Though it would not be a driverless car, it would obviously be a big step toward bringing such a vehicle onto the road.

Crucially, none of these companies have addressed the issues that Volvo has now brought up. The self-driving car will not become mainstream until all manufacturers are willing to take a similar stand.

A Google spokesperson had no comment on Volvo's proposal.

VatorNews has reached out to Uber and Apple for further comment. We will update this story if we learn more.

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