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Autonomous Vehicle Algorithms: Paving the Way for Product Liability Changes?

Squire Patton Boggs

18 January 2017

San Francisco CA

Event Details

Autonomous driving (AD) is intended to reduce accident rates significantly as human error – responsible for the majority of automobile accidents – is taken out of the equation.

The world’s most notable automotive and technology companies are currently engaged in expensive, multi-year research programs to create the safest AD vehicles on the road. Though the technology these companies are developing will undoubtedly save thousands of lives, many could be subject to enormous liability exposure for driving “decisions” made by their technology.

Matthew F. Miller, partner in our Products Liability Litigation group, will moderate our next panel of speakers:

  • James M. Anderson, Director of the RAND Corporation Institute for Civil Justice and Justice Policy program
  • Mike Hetke, Chief Strategy Officer of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah
  • Michael Prince, Director and Associate General Counsel, Intel Corporation Automated Driving Group and Transportation Solutions Division
  • John Villasenor, Professor of electrical engineering, public policy, and management and visiting professor of law at UCLA; Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford

Some of the questions our panel will address include:

  • If an autonomous car causes an accident, who is liable – the driver, the software developer that created the program or the manufacturer that built it into the on-board computer?
  • What are the other liability implications for market innovators in this space as they move to roll-out the first wave of products?
  • In order to incentivize more rapid adoption of AD than would naturally occur in the face of a liability shift from driver to vehicle, will regulators and legislators need to craft liability safe harbors or immunities for OEMs and technology providers?
  • How will the liability insurance industry adapt to what could be a fundamental shift in responsibility, with the government also possibly promoting risk-sharing pools for the “greater good” of AD technologies?


James M. Anderson is the lead author of RAND Corporation’s Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers (2016) and Director of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice. He is a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Vehicle Highway Automation and the Uniform State Laws Study Committee on State Regulation of Driverless Cars and has been working on the policy issues around autonomous vehicles since 2008. Before joining RAND, he practiced law for ten years. He received a JD from Yale Law School.

Mike Hetke is the Chief Strategy Officer of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah. At AAA, Mike is responsible for leading corporate strategy development; as well as fostering and commercializing new avenues of long-term, sustainable member value and growth. Prior to AAA, Mike brought extensive leadership experience in new product and business development primarily focused within the insurance sector.

Matthew F. Miller is an accomplished litigator and trial lawyer in complex business disputes, products liability, breach of contract and unfair competition matters, including misappropriation of intellectual property, business interference torts, breach of employment contracts and breach of joint venture agreements. Matthew has obtained numerous multimillion-dollar recoveries for his clients, particularly in relation to unfair business competition, employment misdeeds and trade secret misappropriation.

Michael Prince is the lead counsel for Intel Corporation's Transportation Solutions Division and Automated Driving Group where he supports engagements with automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, and other ecosystem participants. In previous roles at Intel, Michael handled strategic intellectual property engagements as well as complex transactional matters. 

John Villasenor is on the faculty at UCLA, where he is a professor of electrical engineering, public policy, and management, and a visiting professor of law. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Villasenor’s work addresses the intersection of technology, policy, law, and business. In 2014, he authored "Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation." He is regularly published in major media outlets and academic journals and has also provided congressional testimony on multiple occasions.