Four cars approach an intersection with a four-way stop. Every car is heading in a different direction. All arrive the intersection at the same time and all are equipped with autonomous control and none of the driver/aka passengers are paying attention. The “car to the right rule kicks in” and all four cars, for whatever reason, decide that they are indeed the “car to the right.” All of the cars collide in the center of the intersection, causing bodily harm to all four drivers. Here in Iowa, which is not a no-fault state, the negligent party’s insurance company is on the hook for the claims. But who was negligent? The drivers for not taking over the controls? The software programmers for not taking into account the scenario that I outlined above? The car manufacturers? Nobody? I suppose it is also inevitable that UPS, FedEx, and the Postal Service will replace their drivers with autonomous cars and robots to handle the delivery of packages. The same must be true for over the road trucks.
What if the driver is legally drunk and the autonomously piloted car is in a car accident? Is the driver really guilty of a DUI? Will autonomously piloted cars encourage drinking and driving?
It is clear that autonomous vehicles will require a reworking of state laws to account for new developments. The easiest way to handle some of the legal issues is for states to adopt no-fault insurance laws that specifically take into account autonomous vehicles.