Winning the Imitation Game: Setting Safety Expectations for Automated Vehicles

35 Pages Posted: 8 May 2023 Last revised: 26 Dec 2023

See all articles by William H. Widen

William H. Widen

University of Miami - School of Law

Philip Koopman

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: April 25, 2023


Now published in 25 Minn. J.L. Sci. & Tech. 113 (2023). This essay suggests that legislatures amend existing law to create a new legal category of “computer driver” to allow a plaintiff to make a negligence claim against an automated vehicle manufacturer for loss proximately caused by any negligent driving behavior exhibited by the driving automation systems which it produced. Creating this new legal category will allow a status quo approach to attribution and allocation of liability, including permitting defendants to take advantage of contributory negligence and comparative fault rules. Creation of the category also allows for continued functioning of the structure of our existing liability laws and regulations for motor vehicles in which the federal government regulates automotive equipment, and the state governments regulate drivers, driving, licensing and registration.

The law often needs a statute to address changes in technology for which existing law understandably fails to provide answers. Creating the category of “computer driver” avoids the conceptual difficulties caused by an uncertain boundary between regulation of equipment and regulation of drivers—the very disruptive situation created by the new technologies of driving automation in which computer drivers replace human drivers. It prevents shifting regulatory responsibility for liability attribution to the federal government and away from state governments when the human driver is replaced by equipment in the form of certain sophisticated driving automation systems which we capture with the legal fiction of a “computer driver.”

Keywords: automated vehicle, autonomous vehicle, AV, computer driver, highly automated vehicle, negligence, robo-taxi, self-driving car

JEL Classification: R41, K13

Suggested Citation

Widen, William H. and Koopman, Philip, Winning the Imitation Game: Setting Safety Expectations for Automated Vehicles (April 25, 2023). Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Forthcoming, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4429695, Available at SSRN: or

William H. Widen (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

Philip Koopman

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122685225 (Phone)

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