Opening the discussion of liability on driverless vehicles.

The Olli bus is already driving on roads in the US and we can expect to see them in Europe soon. Photo: Local Motors.

By Madison E. Van Every & Jonas Arend Bisgaard Kristensen

With the continued emergence of robotics in the EU, the Commission and Parliament are left the task of finding the appropriate measures to regulate the safe and ethical use of driverless cars.

The most pertinent question on the table revolves around the issue of liability. Who can we hold responsible in the case of malfunctioning driverless cars? Experts have yet to rest their case.

“Humans cause all of the trouble,” says Mady Delvaux, Vice-Chair in the Committee on Legal Affairs, and rapporteur on the report with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics. She adds, that the point is not to blame anyone but to rather protect consumers who are not as easily insured as the big car companies.

Thomas Terney, lecturer on artificial intelligence and digital transformation, holds a similar position, claiming that humans being involved, for example, in driverless car interference in the case of an autonomous vehicle malfunction, pose an extreme danger.

“Passengers in a driverless car become very inattentive. We have to get to a point where cars can drive completely without the interference of human beings. We are too unreliable.”

The European Parliament, specifically the Committee on Legal Affairs, has proposed a plan for an expert committee to help navigate and provide advice on how to develop effective policies on robotics as they become more prevalent in society.

Mady Delvaux says the next step is for the Commission to approve her draft report on the Civil Law Rules on Robotics. She says we can expect to see a finalized set of rules on driverless cars ethics by the start of summer.