Update: A GM spokesperson later told CarAdvice that “it is too early for [them] to say what liability will look like in the future.” The liability arena is very complex and industry and policymakers will be learning through real world experience as it occurs.
General Motors more than doubled the size of its autonomous car fleet and will take full responsibility for vehicles crashes that take place in self-driving mode.
As the automaker continues to increase the size of its test fleet, it has also reported more accidents that have occurred. To be more exact, the company reported that its vehicles were involved in six minor crashes in California just in September. These incidents took place between the autonomous cars and ones operated by a human.
Rebecca Mark, spokeswoman for the GM Cruise said, “All our incidents this year were caused by the other vehicle.”
GM itself went on to explain this about their autonomous cars:
"“While we look forward to the day when autonomous vehicles are commonplace, the streets we drive on today are not so simple, and we will continue to learn how humans drive and improve how we share the road together.”"
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GM is preparing to release a number of its first all-electric Chevy Bolts that have Cruise technology built right into them.
Cruise has been actively testing its systems in San Francisco, California – which is no easy task. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt wrote the following in a Medium post:
"“Anyone who has visited San Francisco knows driving here is kind of ridiculous. Our vehicles encounter challenging (and often absurd) situations up to 46 times more often than other places self-driving cars are tested. Perhaps for this reason, nobody else is regularly testing self-driving cars in SF. And while we’re generally drawn to tough problems, we test in SF only because we have to. We believe it’s the fastest path toward deploying self-driving cars at scale.”"
This leads us to the question of who is at fault if the artificial intelligence system fails in these autonomous cars.
With a fleet of self-driving cars increasing, so are the questions regarding insurance payouts and who to point the finger at in the aftermath of a car accident. After all, this is something that autonomous cars are manufactured to avoid from taking place. If an unfortunate instance occurs, General Motors told CarAdvice that it will take complete responsibility (if a crash takes place during an autonomous driving trip.)
Warwick Stirling, head of GM’s innovation, made it clear that once a car is operating in autonomous mode, the driver is handing off full responsibility and the liability therefore switches to the automaker. GM has recently launched its new Super Cruise mode in the Cadillac CT6, which allows for level 2 automation. However, GM went one step further and added a system that is nearly level 3 in terms of self-driving capabilities.
When engaged in Super Cruise mode, “the driver is still in the driver’s seat, and they are supposed to be driving and the car is helping them, the driver is still liable,” Stirling explained. This all changes in the level 3 and 4 modes, where the car’s AI takes over for the driver. This process consequently puts the blame on GM, should any accident occur. Volvo has already made similar statements on the topic of self-driving liability.
Check out the video below to see GM’s mass production process.