Automated Vehicles and Manufacturer Responsibility for Accidents: A New Legal Regime for a New Era

52 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2018 Last revised: 3 Aug 2018

See all articles by Kenneth S. Abraham

Kenneth S. Abraham

University of Virginia School of Law

Robert L. Rabin

Stanford Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 28, 2018


The United States is on the verge of a new era in transportation, requiring a new legal regime. Over the coming decades, there will be a revolution in driving, as manually-driven cars are replaced by automated vehicles. There will then be a radically new world of auto accidents: most accidents will be caused by cars, not by drivers. Thus far, however, proposals for reform have failed to address with precision the distinctive issues that will be posed during the long transitional period in which automated vehicles share the roadway with conventional vehicles, or during the succeeding period that will be dominated by accidents between automated vehicles. A legal regime for this new era should more effectively and sensibly promote safety and provide compensation than the existing tort doctrines governing driver liability for negligence and manufacturer liability for product defects will be able to do. In a world of accidents dominated by automated vehicles, these doctrines will be anachronistic and obsolete. We present a proposal for a more effective system, adopting strict manufacturer responsibility for auto accidents. We call this system Manufacturer Enterprise Responsibility, or “MER.” In describing and developing our proposal for MER, we present the first detailed, extensively analyzed approach that would promote deterrence and compensation more effectively than continued reliance on tort in the coming world of accidents involving automated vehicles.

Keywords: tort liability, automated vehicles, driverless cars

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Abraham, Kenneth S. and Rabin, Robert L., Automated Vehicles and Manufacturer Responsibility for Accidents: A New Legal Regime for a New Era (March 28, 2018). Virginia Law Review, Forthcoming, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2018-19, Stanford Public Law Working Paper, Available at SSRN:

Kenneth S. Abraham (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3616 (Phone)
434-982-2845 (Fax)

Robert L. Rabin

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-3073 (Phone)
650-725-0253 (Fax)

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