Driverless car technology promises to change personal transportation as profoundly as the development of the gasoline-fueled automobiles did. People, because of age or disabilities, will be able to use automobiles because the car itself is the driver. Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft will become less expensive because the expense of a human driver has been removed from the equation.

However, with convenience and access, some risks will be involved. For example, according to a recent article in Wired, some researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have found a way to “hack” a driverless car that does not involve accessing its on-board computer. The researchers proved that they can, instead, hack a video billboard by inserting images of road warnings such as stop signs. The cameras on a self-driving car will detect these images and act accordingly, such as stopping in the middle of the road. Trees and even roads can be used to project images of signs and even pedestrians to manipulate the operation of self-driving vehicles.

Clearly, the manufacturers and operators of driverless vehicles have some work to do to prevent hackers from causing gridlock and mayhem on the road using such images, some of which can be displayed for only a split second to fool cameras. Some driverless vehicles use a variety of sensors, including lidar which uses lasers to measure speed and distance, that are not susceptible to such spoofing.

I a driverless car is involved in an accident because of outside mischief, who is legally responsible? Of course, the people perpetrating the action must shoulder the majority of the blame. However, manufacturers of driverless cars may also be partially liable if they do not develop failsafe systems to prevent such mischief. The possibility represents an unknown part of liability law.

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