MKOZAQ Engineer's Log

Self-driving cars and the fault in case of an accident

Before starting, we need to understand how these self-driving cars work. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), there are 5 levels of autonomous technology:

  • Level 1: Driver Assistance. Example: cruise control.
  • Level 2: Partial Automation. Example: A vehicle can control speed and steering.
  • Level 3: Conditional Automation. For example, a vehicle can drive itself under certain conditions.
  • Level 4: High Automation. Example: vehicle can complete entire journey start to finish.
  • Level 5: Full Automation. Example: driverless cars.

By my own classification as who’s to blame in case of an accident, I have just two bullets.

  1. If the autonomous technology requires an assist driver, then the fault in case of an accident belongs to the driver.
  2. If the car is fully autonomous and doesn’t require any assistance, then the fault goes to the manufacturer.

Regarding the first one, there isn’t much to say. More often than not, the root cause of a self-driving car crash is not autonomous technology but human error.

On the second one, as the level of autonomous technology increases, I expect that the technology is very well standardised and cars are all interconnected and can communicate with each other on the road. Just then, you can blame the manufacturer and the technology in case of an accident.

Until the technology is not above level 5, the human part needs to share the responsibility with the technology.