The Risk Management Challenge in a Self-Driving World
When you read the latest media coverage, you get the sense that when it comes to self-driving vehicles, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Yet, as autonomous vehicle systems get more and more market-ready, will our society be ready? And, on a more granular level, will we in the fleet industry be ready?
Take, for example, risk management. When a robotic vehicle is involved in a collision, who – or what – is responsible?
There’s a growing consensus around the idea that the automaker would assume liability. But what would happen if a sensor on your self-driving truck failed to detect a child darting behind the vehicle as it shifted in reverse, and the truck fatally struck that child?
Sure, you might have grounds to blame the OEM for the sensor malfunction, but it’s your utility’s logo on the truck. Now, your organization is dealing with a public relations firestorm for an incident – and a truck – your crews had no control over.
Or, what about the liability with upfitted trucks? It’s one thing when self-driving sensors are installed by a single car or truck manufacturer. But what about when a third-party upfitter mounts a body on a chassis? Would the upfitter be responsible for installing the cameras, sonar, radar and other sensors on the truck body and integrating them with the sensors on the chassis? If so, how does the industry ensure safety and quality control of the self-driving systems for both the chassis and body?
And who, ultimately, would be liable for an incident caused by a sensor malfunction on an upfitted truck? Would it be the chassis OEM, the upfitter or the sensor manufacturer?
Or, what if there’s a computer glitch? When a vehicle is driven by software, who would be allowed to work on it? And if persistent system glitches occur, causing a collision, who’s the responsible party – the vehicle OEM, the repair shop or the utility itself?
Yes, all trend lines seem to be pointing toward a self-driving future. But there are many questions – beyond the technology – that government, industry and citizens must answer before robots will rule the roads.
Sean M. Lyden