I had a discussion about drones for civilian use, e.g. self-driving cars without a human at its wheels, transport devices that would fly products you otherwise would buy in the supermarket directly to your home, and robots that collect trash from the streets all by themselves.
The most controversial issue was of who takes the responsibility for damages caused by such a drone. A list of potential candidates were:
- since the drones acts on its own, the drone itself
- the developer of that malfunctioning code
- the company selling the drone
- the owner of the drone
I find myself not agreeing with any of those possibilities by themselves, yet agreeing on some on some levels.
I think there is no such thing as malevolent intent for a drone, so every damage would be an accident. I hence doubt we could treat such a drone like a human and have it put on trial.
An accident then could either be caused by a force majeure, e.g. due to a natural disaster, or be boiled down to technical failure.
For technical failure, it would be either the the company's fault for not testing the device enough or the developer's one for making a mistake. The severity would then be determined if it was a somewhat understandable oversight or a grossly negligent act.
I think the real question hiding in there is: What kind of security standard do we want to apply as a society on such devices without hindering innovation too much? Or don't we want them at all?
If a company or a developer must fear high compensation for damages, wouldn't the rational choice be not to build such drones?