Well, not quite. While the law grapples with how to deal with the soon to be oncoming influx of self-driving cars and their impact on motor vehicle accident negligence laws in BC, we can reasonably predict that any such laws will be predicated on the existing negligence laws already in place.

One staple of the existing laws requires that each element of the negligence analysis be proved on a balance of probabilities. That is, injured plaintiffs must show that the defendant(s) owed them a duty of care, breached that duty, that the breach caused the plaintiff to suffer foreseeable harm. Failure to prove any one of these elements may result in a claim being dismissed.

In the case of Little v. Einarsen http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/15/21/2015BCSC2127.htm, the pedestrian plaintiff was struck by an unoccupied (and arguably, therefore, “self-driving”) car which rolled down a hill after the defendant had parked it. At trial, the plaintiff could prove that he was injured. There was no question that the vehicle struck him, and the he was not contributorily negligent at all. However, the plaintiff could not prove that anything the defendant did, or did not do, caused the accident to occur as it did, and as a result the claim was dismissed.

Justice Smith said the following at para. 25 “[i]n short, while Mr. Little clearly suffered injuries, he has failed to meet the burden of proving that they were caused by anything Ms. Einarsen did or failed to do or by any mechanical defect she could have detected with ordinary care, caution, or skill…”

We can wonder, based on the above rationale, how liability against owners of self-driving cars will be established in the future where, for example, the owner has nothing to do with the driving decisions made by his or her vehicle. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.