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Who's liable if a self-driving car is in a crash?

Self-driving cars are not a fixture in Texas or anywhere else for that matter. But that doesn't mean they don't exist at all. There are nearly 50 of them cruising around California roads right now.

Those are licensed to Google as part of its effort to develop autonomous vehicles. And Google isn't the only company working on the concept. A number of traditional carmakers are working on the technology. Indeed, a growing number of manufacturers already offer cars that automatically brake or throttle down if onboard sensors detect that a collision might be about to occur.

So the question doesn't seem to be whether autonomous vehicles are coming but rather, when they will be fully functional. And an additional question that prompts is, if one of them gets involved in an accident that leaves someone injured or killed, who should be held liable?

It's a question that doesn't deserve to be put off until it's too late. The fact is that Google recently confirmed that four of its self-driving cars have been involved in crashes since last September.

Granted, two happened while human drivers were handling the steering. Two others happened while the vehicles were under computer control. Google says the accidents were all minor and that no one was hurt in any of them. But will it always be so? Whenever anyone is hurt in a collision resulting from negligence, the right to seek compensation exists.

As things are now, the rate of crashes resulting in property damage are higher for the test cars than the national rate. Test cars now on the road are also required to carry $5 million insurance policies.

Considering that proponents tout self-driving cars as being safer, at least one legal scholar predicts that the issue of fault related to them is going to remain a big concern.

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