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On the Redesign of Accident Liability for the World of Autonomous Vehicles

Steven Shavell

The Journal of Legal Studies, 2020, vol. 49, issue 2, 243 - 285

Abstract: This article proposes a scheme of liability that would desirably control accident risks in the coming world in which motor vehicles will be predominantly autonomous. In that world, the typical traveler will not be an active driver, which will render liability premised on driver fault largely irrelevant as a means of reducing vehicle accident dangers. Moreover, no other conventional principle of individual or of manufacturer liability would serve well to do so. Indeed, strict manufacturer liability, recommended by many commentators, would tend to leave accident risks unchanged from their levels in the absence of any liability. However, a new form of strict liability—the hallmark of which is that damages would be paid to the state—would be superior to conventional rules of liability in alleviating accident risks and would be easy to implement.

Date: 2020
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