Liability Of Self-Driving — Or “Killer Robots”?
Published on:October 5, 2021

In 2016, a Tesla self-driving car rammed into a trailer, killing the Tesla driver a the spot- The first known accident from a self-driving vehicle. However, after the incident, the car has been warning its driver to disengage the autopilot. 

Advocates of autonomous cars will defend their stance since driverless cars have drastically improved road safety. When put to the test, 94% of car crashes are caused by driver’s error. Though driveless cars improve road safety, what happens when an accident happens?

Surely, ACCIDENTS, happen. When it does, who is liable when a self-driving car gets involved in an accident? Some of the parties involved in this case include – the software company, the car manufacturer, the car itself, and the driver or owner of the car.

To decide whom society lynches, we have to understand what justifies a criminal law to pass a just judgment. If the car, the killer robot if you’ll prefer, is found guilty, death punishment is almost meaningless since the car cannot feel, or be afraid. After all, that is the basic criminal law, suggested in the first model.

Can we persecute a hacker?

If further investigations prove the car was highjacked by a dark hoodie at night, the state will prosecute the hacker. This game of chess will also involve the software designer who is expected to use a state-of-the-art security system that is unhackable.

NOW, who is our offender?

It doesn’t make sense to persecute the driver. In stage five of an autonomous car, the driver is not in control of the car. Hence, punishing him doesn’t teach other drivers to act in a different way, making rehabilitation non-existent for the passenger.

It is more logical to go after the software company, don’t you think? What if the driver has altered or modified his car, unapproved by his car software company? Or perhaps, the driver failed to install the relevant updates or patches. What if, the driver had changed the car software or hardware, this automatically makes the driver the offender.


If the driver is found guilty of modifying or changing any parts of the car’s software or hardware, he shall be punished to deter other drivers from doing the same. In that case, the driver will be convicted.

If there were no modifications in the car, the software company, or the hacker who highjacked the car will be prosecuted. As for the robot, it will be shut down. But since they are not yet able to feel or be afraid as us – the basic rationales of the criminal system are not met.

To know more, and discover how to deal with accidents related to driverless cars, go ahead and give us a call 718-273-7900  or fill the contact form. We’d be excited to talk to you.