The future of technology has been ingrained in Western culture and media for longer than most can remember. Movies, books and TV shows set in the near or distant future have enthralled many people for many years. One of the more common themes of our futuristic science fiction tales is automatization. From robots that perform all arrays of tasks, to AI that control the technological infrastructure of the world, seemingly distant technological advancements are ever present in peoples’ minds. But some of these seemingly purely theoretical applications of technology may not be so far from becoming a reality. The dawn of the autonomous car is one such advancement that has come incredibly quickly towards not just a reality, but a practicality. Just ten years ago, if somebody had spoken to you about autonomous cars, you might have thought that it sounded more like something from the movie Back to the Future than a realistic possibility. In the year 2017, however, it is has become clear that the idea of a self-driving car is almost a reality for consumers. Companies such as Uber, Google, Tesla, Mercedes, and others are already testing their prototypes on the streets of cities and towns in several states in the U.S. and in multiple countries around the world. Not everybody in the world is as enthusiastic about the prospect of self-driving cars being on the roads; nonetheless, it does seem that the majority of people are warming to the idea of the self-driving car. As more studies and tests are completed and people have begun to appreciate the advantages that self-driving cars could have, the number of people who like the idea of computer driven cars has risen. Whether or not you approve of autonomous cars, it is still important to understand the potential problems that they may bring.

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One of the most important factors of self-driving cars, especially for Anderson Law, are the legal implications they create. Most of our clients have been injured in some sort of automobile collision. In almost all of these incidents, a certain person is found to be at fault, or liable, for the damages. Those not liable usually receive compensation for the damages caused to their property or person. This is a well-known process and is understood by most people, and there are laws and contracts in place defining liability and allowing compensation or restitution. The introduction and regulation of self-driving cars, however, will completely upend this dynamic. How do you determine liability in an accident involving more than one driverless car? Can you fault the car manufacturer if the car’s navigation system made a mistake? Can you determine any single entity to be at fault? There is almost no legislation currently in place that addresses these issues, and these kinds of questions may become real very soon. In fact, Uber expects its car fleet to be completely driverless by 2030, and many car manufacturers expect to release their completed first models as early as 2019. This means that laws and regulations need to be enacted as soon as possible. Automobile insurance will likely be less expensive. Not only will accidents be less likely to occur, but people may feel less inclined to pay high premiums to be insured for an accident that is both improbable to occur or without a culpable party. Further, some predict that car ownership itself will become significantly less common and that self-driving cars will prove to be an incredibly convenient form of public transportation. In fact, it’s far from certain whether automobile insurance will even remain a form of business if the introduction of self-driving cars is as successful as some believe it will be. It’s impossible to know how much change self-driving cars will bring about, but if successful, both personal injury lawyers and the auto industry can look to see significant changes in the years to come, even in Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. – written by high school intern Aja George


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