China: Drivers May Be Liable For Accidents With Semi-Autonomous Cars

The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions,” Tesla said in a statement in October when it first released Autopilot.

A high ranking official of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology  (MIIT) has said drivers “could be liable” for accidents with advanced driver-assistance systems, including Tesla’s Autopilot.

Jin Xin, deputy head of the ministry’s Bureau of Work Safety, also said that when fully autonomous vehicles hit the road the manufacturer will likely become legally responsible for any accidents.

He furthermore warned drivers “not be overly reliant” on driver assistance systems.

The comments mark the first time a Chinese official publicly speaks out on the legal questions surrounding semi-autonomous cars like the Tesla Model S and Model X. A deadly accident in the United States in May, followed by an Autopilot accident in China earlier this month, has led to a lot of debate and uncertainty.

Companies like LeEco, Baidu , Changan, and Beijing Auto are developing and testing various semi- and autonomous vehicles, and many more are on the way.

A full ban thus seems unlikely at the moment but it is possible that China will temporarily suspend sales of semi-autonomous vehicles until the legal consequences are clear. There is a precedent; in July, China banned highway-tests of autonomous cars, pending new rules.

A temporary suspension won’t be overly dramatic for Tesla. A software update will disable the system and sales are unlikely to go down by much, considering the immense popularity of the brand.

Article published on Forbes

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