The future is here! As of January 1, 2016, Ontario became the first Canadian Province to allow applications for testing of driverless cars on any road, street or highway in the province (see announcement by Ministry of Transportation noted in CBC News’ January 5, 2016 article – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/programs/metromorning/detroit-auto-show-2016-driverless-car-1.338989).
Aside from feeling like George Jetson as driverless cars speed by you, there will likely be a fair bit of anxiety among other drivers on the road at first. People will no doubt fear car accidents that could be caused by a malfunctioning computer in the driverless car or a change in road or weather conditions that the computer does not appreciate. However, my bet is that computers are going to have less “malfunctions” behind the wheel leading to car accidents and injuries than humans do.
The issue will be what happens when driverless cars do cause accidents or are involved in accidents in some way? In Ontario, you would normally sue the driver of the car, but would also sue the owner of the car who is typically responsible for an accident if a driver that they loaned the car to has an accident. However, that does not always apply – ie: accidents that occur on private property may not always attract liability on the owner of the vehicle. This could lead to the need for more detailed analysis by car accident lawyers, and personal injury lawyers in general, about how an accident was caused.
The hope is that this innovation will save a lot of people from suffering the kind of horrible injuries that others have had to deal with. Imagine being able to simply say, well I have had a few beers, oh well, I guess I will turn on the “driverless car” feature – wouldn’t that be something if we could have that easily available to tired, drunk and other drivers with the option to disengage it when necessary.
It’s a brave new world.