Griffith research highlights driverless car legal concerns

New research from Griffith University suggests that current fault-based liability processes fail to accommodate autonomous vehicles.

The research paper argues the legal definitions for ‘accident’ and ‘personal injury’ will require major reform to account for the inability to establish fault where a vehicle is highly automated.

Griffith PhD Law candidate Mark Brady said the question of whether a driver is at fault in the event that an autonomous vehicle harms another person or causes damage is important.

“With a fault-based system, most require a person in control of the vehicle or a driver,” Mr Brady said.

“An autonomous vehicle doesn’t fit the current legislative definition. So, in order to establish who is in control, they need to create a legal fiction and displace that blame to somebody else — whether that be the manufacturer, the software provider, or some other fault.”

He also said that existing compensation and insurance schemes, such as the compulsory third party motor accident schemes and the national injury insurance schemes, will need change.

“Under a compulsory third party fault-based system, unless you can prove that there was a person at fault, you can’t recover,” Mr Brady said.

“It defeats the purpose of a compulsory third party scheme if people can’t be covered in a third-party accident.

In late 2016 the Queensland Government invested$26.5 millioninto a driverless car trial based in Ipswich, resulting in 500 regular cars being fitted with sensors.

On road testing of driverless vehicles is expected to begin in 2019.