The European Road to Autonomous Vehicles

34 Pages Posted: 29 May 2019 Last revised: 31 Jul 2019

See all articles by Francesco Paolo Patti

Francesco Paolo Patti

Bocconi University - Department of Law; Bocconi University - Bocconi Law Department

Date Written: May 28, 2019


The present contribution intends to outline a “European regulatory strategy” in order to address technological and legal challenges posed by autonomous vehicles. Starting with a recent communication of the EU Commission, the paper provides a critical analysis of the EU policies on the legal issues of liability related to autonomous vehicles. The ongoing discussions within national jurisdictions demonstrate that a comprehensive plan to tackle the aforementioned problems is missing. The efforts made by national legislators and scholars reveal a patchwork of solutions, whereby everyone tries to find their own way to balance innovation with the need to protect the interested persons. It is however clear that the possible evolutions in the automotive sector will mainly affect three branches of private law: traffic accident liability, product liability and insurance law. It is thus necessary to understand whether private law needs to adapt its paradigms to the technological developments under examination. In this respect, the contribution tries to examine the main problematic aspects of the actual legal framework at the national and European level. It goes then further in presenting, through a two-steps approach, how traffic liability might look like in the future, both in the short and in the longer term. The main findings of the article are that in the near future no dramatic changes are required, but just some minor amendments to adapt the product liability regime to the technological changes; in the more distant future, when users will demand autonomous vehicles through their devices, there will be the need to fashion a new system of traffic liability with compulsory insurance on manufactures, which will become a prerequisite for the vehicle being in motion. Finally, the paper advances some conclusions about the need to foster comparative research on the examined issues.

Keywords: Autonomous Vehicles, Torts, Traffic Liability, Product Liability, European Law, Comparative Law

JEL Classification: F15, K10, K12, K13, K20, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Patti, Francesco Paolo, The European Road to Autonomous Vehicles (May 28, 2019). Fordham International Law Journal, Forthcoming, Bocconi Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3395206, May 2019, Available at SSRN:

Francesco Paolo Patti (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Law ( email )

Via Roentgen, 1
Milan, Milan 20136

Bocconi University - Bocconi Law Department ( email )


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