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Being Chauffeured by Rosie the Robot

Would a car accident involving a driverless car be covered by New York’s no-fault insurance law? (N.Y. ISC Law § 5103) What if a car could drive itself? You could read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal from the driver’s seat or work on your personal computer while HAL drives you to work. (2001: A Space Odyssey) Think about removing human error to reduce the 93 percent of accidents that occur due to human error, a total of 34,000 traffic deaths.

The current journey

Back in 2008, General Motors announced the establishment of the Collaborative Research lab between GM and Carnegie Mellon University to work together to develop a driverless vehicle. Carnegie Mellon faculty from the School of Computer Science and College of Engineering work with GM Research and Development to work “on technologies that will accelerate the emerging field of autonomous driving – a family of electronics and software technologies that could influence the way drivers and their vehicles interact in the future.”

In August 2012, Marketplace from American Public Media reported that Google had a fleet of driverless cars that had just “completed 300,000 miles of driving without having an accident of any kind.” The article pointed out that, “There have, of course been some accidents that involved Google’s self-driving cars in the past. All of these, however, happened while humans were in control of the cars.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year, there were varying self-driving technologies on display from Audi to Toyota.

Driverless Cars Ready for the Production Line?

A recent Freakonomics Radio article on American Public Media’s Marketplace looked at the current status of Carnegie Mellon’s innovations. Carnegie Mellon used a Cadillac SUV that looks like it came off the showroom floor. They want to “build a driverless car that (A) doesn’t look like a robot and (B) is relatively affordable. So all the cameras, and sensors, and radars are embedded in the bumpers and elsewhere. It looks pretty much like a stock car unless you open up the spare tire compartment, that’s where all the computers are. And then there is also a big red kill button on the dashboard.”

Driverless cars and personal injury in New York?

So how would accidents caused by driverless cars be affected by New York’s no-fault insurance law? A car’s owner is responsible for any injuries caused by the car, even if someone else was driving. As of now, driverless cars have kill switches, which would allow a human to take control. Driverless cars would likely not change New York’s no-fault insurance law in the immediate future, but they may reduce the number of accidents caused by human error. For now, human error will remain and car accidents will happen. If you have been injured by an automobile, driven by a human or a computer, contact our personal injury attorney to assess your situation today.

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