September 15, 2023 12:00 AM
Driver-assist, autonomous tech legalities ‘a hot mess’
DETROIT — Automakers and suppliers have spent tens of billions developing driver-assistance and autonomous-driving capabilities, but the legal landscape surrounding those technologies is at best problematic — and at worst “a hot mess” — according to panelists Tuesday at the Automotive News Congress.
“I think the liability situation is a hot mess right now, but I think it’s probably relatively straightforward to fix it if you look at it the right way,” said Phil Koopman, a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University who works extensively on automated-driving safety issues. “But if we don’t fix it, it’s going to be a mess.”
Problems range from technologies that are inaccurately or nebulously described, consumers who overestimate what their vehicles are capable of and regulatory challenges that have made true autonomous driving difficult to achieve in the real world, panelists said.
Add to those issues the fact that most of the litigation in the area so far has been settled out of court, said Jennifer Dukarski, a lawyer and “recovering engineer” in Butzel’s Ann Arbor, Mich., office, practicing in the areas of intellectual property, media and technology.
“When you look at most of the cases that have arisen, under these driverless vehicles or somewhat autonomous vehicles … people sued under negligence theory,” Dukarski said. “And let’s be honest — all of them have settled, so we really have no idea where [legal precedent is] ultimately headed.”
— Larry P. Vellequette
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