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Motorcyclist sues GM over self-driving car accident

Can a robot be negligent? A suit out of California may find an answer.

As multiple auto manufacturers race to be the first company to mass-produce self-driving cars, a recent accident case out of California may throw a wrench into the cars’ legal standing.

The absence of human error is frequently touted as an advantage of self-driving cars. But according to an ongoing lawsuit, even seemingly infallible machines make mistakes. A California motorcyclist is suing General Motors, accusing one of their autonomous vehicles of “negligent driving,” according to the industry publication Transport Topics.

Struck by a self-driving car

The biker claims in his suit that he was riding down a San Francisco street when a Chevy swerved into his lane and struck him on his motorcycle. He fell to the ground and sustained serious injuries that have left him unable to work. Consumer watchdogs have long been critical of releasing autonomous cars too quickly, and many are pointing to this case as a cautionary tale.

In any other case, the driver of the Cruise would likely be found responsible for his medical bills, lost wages and other damages. But there’s a catch in this case – the car was in self-driving mode, and the vehicle’s operator didn’t even have his hands on the wheel.

With no human driver, who’s responsible?

According to the police report, the car tried to make a lane change, then aborted. The motorcyclist began passing on the right as the car swerved back into its original lane. The backup driver allegedly tried to grab the wheel and avoid the collision, but couldn’t.

GM insists that the car was simply “re-centering” itself in its lane. For now, it is impossible to tell what happened – but we will be watching this case and observing any developments that could affect the rollout of self-driving cars on a broader scale.

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