Who's to blame when a driverless car goes astray?

Detroit will be host this June to a Driverless Car Summit. Over two days, you will allegedly learn everything there is to know.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
My other car doesn't have a mind of its own. Google

If you rob a bank and get away in a driverless Prius, will the owner be indicted as the driver? Or will Toyota? Or maybe Google?

If your driverless car decides -- as so many machines do in movies -- that it has a mind of its own, will you be responsible when it decides to mount the curb and plow straight into your favorite donut store? And what if someone hacks into your driverless car and you suddenly end up in Alaska, with an instruction to mow down moose?

You'll tell me this will never happen. I will point you to the fine profits regularly earned by the world's insurance companies.

I suspect that not everyone has the answers yet for all the ramifications of ceding your steering wheel to Google's machines.

Thankfully, though, all those who have the deepest knowledge of the self-driving future will be meeting in June to have a freewheeling exchange.

On June 11 and 12, Detroit will host a Driverless Car Summit.

Over two days, everything from the law to insurance to, yes, the DMV aspects will be discussed.

Naturally, Google also will be there to present "Google's Perspective On Driverless Cars." I imagine that perspective might involve a large amount of "our machines are better than people. We're always proving that, right?"

The stated aim of the conference is to make driverless cars "a reality by 2022."

I know there are many -- including Google's senior managers -- who believe that these new cars would increase safety on the road.

Those who have slightly less faith in machines differ. They say there are huge privacy implications. Imagine if, say, your insurance company knew precisely how you drove at every single moment of the day and night.

Read: Robo-cars face a new threat: Lawyers

Oh, and then there are advertisers, desperate to whisper in both your ears and assault both your eyes, now that you'll have nothing else to capture your attention.

The more skeptical might feel reassured that if the car industry is involved, these cars might not be mass produced this side of the apocalypse.

For myself, I am merely distressed that this summit clashes with my necessary attendance at the Headless Chicken Summit, to be held in Hawaii.