Self-driving car: security and liability

I read about Google’s vision of driverless cars. I like it, but I can’t stop to ask myself a few questions.

Before that, Google’s driverless car just got its driver license 🙂

The NHTSA letter isn’t a ruling; it’s a clarification about how the agency will interpret the law in the future. You can read the full thing here (warning: It’s a mess), but the key part is below:

As a foundational starting point for the interpretations below, NHTSA will interpret driver in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the SDS, and not to any of the vehicle occupants. We agree with Google its SDV will not have a driver in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years. The trend toward computer-driven vehicles began with such features as antilock brakes, electronic stability control, and air bags, continuing today with automatic emergency braking, forward crash warning, and lane departure warnings, and continuing on toward vehicles with Google’s SDV and potentially beyond. … If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving. In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the SDS, is actually driving the vehicle.

No comments… the text in bold is the one that is critical.


And now the questions:


1.If the SDV (self-driving vehicle) is driving and an accident happens, who is liable?

Is it Google?

Is it the occupant of the car? But how can the owner be liable if he doesn’t have any mean to prevent the accident?

  1. If a SDV is used to commit a crime, as in driving over somebody, running/driving away from an accident, etc. who is liable?

Should the car be programmed to avoid such situations? Remember the laws of robotics? (Asimov)

  1. If the SDV has to choose between driving into a wall or driving over someone (pedestrians) what should it do?

Should it potentially kill the occupant and destroy itself or should it kill the pedestrians?

  1. What about car theft? Should the car return back to its rightful owner?


And other similar questions like this.

Do you have other questions?


© Copyright 2016 Sorin Mustaca, All rights Reserved. Written For: Sorin Mustaca on Cybersecurity

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About the Author

Sorin Mustaca
Sorin Mustaca, (ISC)2 CSSLP, CompTIA Security+ and Project+, is working since over 20 years in the IT Security industry and worked between 2003-2014 for Avira as Product Manager for the known products used by over 100 million users world-wide. Today he is CEO and owner of Endpoint Cybersecurity GmbH focusing on Cybersecurity, secure software development and security for IoT and Automotive. He is also running his personal blog Sorin Mustaca on Cybersecurity and is the author of the free eBook Improve your security .
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