Liability Rules for Automated Vehicles: Definitions & Details

21 Pages Posted: 13 May 2023

See all articles by Philip Koopman

Philip Koopman

Carnegie Mellon University

William H. Widen

University of Miami - School of Law

Date Written: May 10, 2023


This paper explains how the law ought to attribute and allocate liability for accidents involving automated vehicles. We advocate for the creation of the legal fiction of a “Computer Driver” and allow a court or jury to attribute ordinary negligence liability to the Computer Driver anytime a court or jury determines that the Computer Driver’s behavior failed to imitate or exceed the level of care we would expect of an attentive and unimpaired Human Driver in similar circumstances. Further, we explain how to determine contributory negligence for the interactions between Computer Drivers and Human Drivers when control of a vehicle is transferred from a Computer Driver to a Human Driver by specifying a portion of time during the take-over transition period in which the Human Driver cannot have contributory negligence as a matter of law. We have proposed and defended these views in contemporaneous traditional law review articles.

We make our case in this paper by presenting proposed legal definitions and explanatory legislative history to show additional details in our recommended structure. We use this non-traditional presentation because we believe this complexity can only be fully conveyed by providing the details in a precise way with technical definitions and wording which should be familiar to engineers and safety specialists.

Keywords: automated vehicle, autonomous vehicle, highly automated vehicle, J3016, J3018, negligence, contributory negligence, robo taxi, robotaxi,

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Koopman, Philip and Widen, William H., Liability Rules for Automated Vehicles: Definitions & Details (May 10, 2023). University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4444848, Available at SSRN: or

Philip Koopman (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://

William H. Widen

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

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

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