Recent litigation against Toyota has raised a question regarding the manufacturing of driverless cars: is it the way of the future, or an impossible feat?
Hundreds of complaints have been lodged against Toyota alleging acceleration issues that resulted in car accidents and injury. Now, a global settlement is in the works that may be a landmark issue in the future of Google’s driverless car.
The latest suit against Toyota requires that the car manufacturer prove there was no defect in the electric throttle of the car that the plaintiff Jean Bookout was driving when it unintentionally accelerated, injuring her and killing a passenger. Toyota alleges that there is no defect with the system, but testimony by software expert Michael Barr suggested that a single bit flip could have caused the problem. Whats concerning is the idea that a bit flip is possible at any time, and is completely untraceable and impossible to replicate.
Toyota is stuck in a precarious situation to prove that something untraceable and impossible to replicate did not happen. Proving a negative is a difficult, if not impossible task. Because of the nature of our tort system, will we ever see car manufacturers willing to take the risk with electric cars that could easily experience a glitch like the one alleged by the Bookout attorneys? Its likely that the potential for injury and litigation is so high that manufacturers will avoid production of electric cars entirely.
Google claims that its driverless car has logged 500,000 accident-free miles, which would be significant if it hadn’t taken billions of hours on the road for consumers to discover the issues that Toyota is being confronted with now.
Unfortunately, with the allegations that Toyota is facing, we may never see a car manufacturer bold enough to unveil an electric vehicle smart enough to withstand the power of the mass tort.