Tort Reform and "Smart" Highways: Are Liability Concerns Impeding the Development of Cost-effective Intelligent Vehicle-highway Systems?: Final Report

Report No: 94-R6

Published in 1994

About the report:

Highly automated vehicles and highways--which permit higher travel speeds, narrower lanes, smaller headways between vehicles, and optimized routing (collectively called intelligent vehicle-highway systems or IVHS)-- have been generally conceded to be the most promising solutions to our existing, and future, highway transportation problems. Although IVHS may eventually revolutionize surface transportation, their development is proceeding slowly in part as a result of concerns over the potential impact of tort liability. Specifically, IVHS developers note that although at present, the cost of automobile accidents are for the most part borne by drivers, increased automation may shift accident cost liability to IVHS developers and operators. This study uses a three-step process to evaluate the IVHS tort liability risk problem. The first part evaluates the claim that IVHS are likely to shift accident liability to highway departments or system manufacturers. The second part examines the appropriateness of government intervention as a means of addressing the IVHS liability problems identified in part one. The third part outlines the potential methods of government intervention that have been proposed in the IVHS literature and indicates which solutions are optimal for each type of IVHS technology. The study finds that significant liability problems are unlikely to arise with many forms of IVHS, or if they do, they are not the type of liability that should be addressed through government intervention. However, there are plausible reasons for government intervention for automatic vehicle navigation, collision warning, collision avoidance, speed and headway keeping, and automated highway/guide way systems. The forms of intervention considered in this report are state/federal regulation statutory liability limits federal government indemnification liability disclaimers, liability insurance, and mandatory risk pooling. Approaches to these potential solutions are described in the paper.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

David Randal Ayers

Last updated: December 23, 2023

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