File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Autonomous Vehicles: Legislations for Liabilities

Artificial Intelligence or AI is evolving into a powerful tool that enables machines to think and act like humans. There is considerable empirical evidence to infer that AI is "Cognitive Computing" where machines (Specifically computers) are being made to infer, reason, perceive, think, sense and act like humans.

Autonomous Vehicles or Self-Driven Cars use AI to control the car. Autonomous cars works and is dependent on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems and powerful processors to implement software. Autonomous cars sense the environment based on a variety of sensors situated in different parts of the vehicle.

Radars sensors monitor the position and distance of the nearby vehicle. Cameras detect traffic lights, road signs, track other vehicles and look for pedestrians. LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) sensors bounce a pulse of light off the car's surroundings to measure distance, detect road edges and identify lane marking.[i]

As of now, the concern is not weather India is in the position to accommodate Autonomous vehicles, but whether Indian Laws are capable to tackle the problem arising out of it i.e., liability for accidents.

This blog is an attempt to investigate the means and need for the legislation for liability by the conceptual study of existing regulatory framework covering motor vehicle in India, through the study of legislations in United Kingdom and United States of America, both of which have remarkably excelled in developing their legal provisions to accommodate autonomous vehicles.

Legislation in US and UK

UK is one of the most developed countries in the world and also it is the most fast forward country to regulate Autonomous Vehicle or Self-Driven Cars. In 2018, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, 2018 was passed. Section 2(2) of statute (iii) explicitly mentions that the owner of the vehicle will be held liable for any accident involved. The same principle applies in case of death due to an accident.[ii]

Further, Section 4 of this act specifically mentions that if the autonomous vehicle is insured and the accident is caused, the liability of the owner decreases. But in short, the act does not mention the liability of the manufacturer of the car and who have developed the AI system but it clearly mentions that the liability is on the owner of the car even if it's a fault of AI. This is problem because this does not only create problems for the owner of the car but also for the administration of Justice.

But in early 2022, the proposed plan of UK of 2025 for Self-Driven Cars mentions that the manufacturer and not the owner will be held liable for any accidents involved while driving it in self-driven mode.[iii]

In United States of America, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of USA released its "Federal Automated Vehicles Policy" in September 2016, which would also update annually. Section 2 of the guidance, the model delineates federal versus state authority. While the federal government is held responsible for setting up motor vehicle safety standards, state remains the lead regulator when it comes to licensing, registration, traffic law enforcement, safety inspections, infrastructure and insurance and liability.

Eleven states and the district of Columbia have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles but all these vary in their scope. States in the US play a more important role than federal for the regulation of Autonomous Vehicle.[iv]

The most common is few of the states is that if vehicle is in autopilot, then the owner may not be liable and the liability may arise on the part of manufacturer.

The fatal Uber accident in Arizona, where car was being driven in autopilot and at the speed of 39mph, collided with an old woman on bicycle aged 49. The US National Transportation Safety Board commented that the driver was watching a T.V show in his mobile phone and his eyes was off to the road few seconds before the incident. The NTSB found that human error was mostly to blame for accident and the driver was held liable in the 1st appearance in the court.

Legislations in India

India, being a country, which is in the process of development is trying its best to at par with modern technology. Currently, in India, there is no specific legislation to regulate Autonomous Vehicle or specifically Self-Driven Cars.

In present, any instances for accidents where a motor vehicle is involved is regulated by "Indian Penal Code, 1960" (IPC) and the "Motor Vehicle Act, 1988" (MV ACT).

The operation of vehicle is regulated by MV Act. It does not allow license or usage of Autonomous Vehicle in India. As in the question of liability for Death and Permanent Disablement, MV Act follows the principle of 'No Fault' liability as per section 140. The owner of the vehicle is held liable for the compensation to the aggrieved party. In case of speeding or in a manner dangerous to the public, the owner is liable for imprisonment for six-months � 2 years depending on the situation and number of times such offence is committed as per section 184 of MV Act.

But there is another latent question that weather the principle of 'No Fault Liability', according to which, the owner of the car will be held liable, should be applied to accidents involving self-driven cars?

Section 144 for MV Act, 1988 prescribes the amount of compensation of Rs. 50000 for Death and Rs. 25000 for permanent disability. But in the case of Haji Zakaria v. Naoshir Cama, a very important question arose, weather defendant can be held liable for compensation even with no rash or negligent driving involved? � The supreme court was of the view that no liability can be imposed on the owner of the vehicle if there is an absence of Negligence. So, if we apply this judgement on the accidents involving self-driven cars, the negligence is done by the manufacturer and not by the owner of the car.[v]

Proposed amendment for MV Act, 2016 is still pending which allows and seeks to exempt certain vehicle from the MV Act to foster research, development and innovation.

As per IPC, various laws related to Rash Driving, causing death by negligence, causing hurt and causing grievous hurt. For rash driving, as per section 279;

Whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with im-presentment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.[vi]

For causing death by Negligence (section 304A);

Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.[vii]

For Hurt (section 319);

Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt.[viii]

And for Grievous Hurt (section 322);

Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which he intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said "voluntarily to cause grievous hurt."[ix]

The SC while deciding the case The State of Arunachal Pradesh v. Ramchandra Ravidas in 2019, the SC penned down the judgement and held that, both the statutes are different from each other. The IPC has a broader approach on criminal wrong doings and MV is to maintain road safety standards, and also a person can be held liable in both of them but the crucial point is that both of them does not includes self-driven cars.

AI is taking hold of this world in every sphere whether it be transport, services, agriculture, healthcare, plagiarism etc. The increase in the use of self-driven cars shows that very soon, use of such car will become a norm. It is difficult to decide the liability in cases of self-driven cars and also difficult to prove weather the driver will be held liable or the manufacturer will be liable.

USA and UK have many legislations related to Autonomous Vehicles as compared to India where there are no legal provisions for such vehicles.

In order to look into the problem in case of India, it is necessary to address the laws which are of significance. As in IT Act of 2000, which talks about privacy and confidentiality which includes personal data and sensitive information and as instances of hacking taking place in this era of technology, AI is also prone to be hacked by Hackers. So it is also important to define out the liability for Accidents caused by Hacking of AI System in autonomous vehicle.

India has no legislations for Autonomous Vehicles in the present, so either Indian law makers have to amend MV Act, 1988, the consumer protection act, 1986 and IPC, 1960 for regulation and liability of Autonomous Vehicles or they have to make new laws for Autonomous Vehicles in India.

Hence, to accommodate Autonomous Vehicles in India, Indian laws have to be stringent in case of accidents involving Autonomous Vehicles and the question of liability arising out of such accidents, by considering different laws passed by different countries.


Written By:
  1. Lakshay Soni, Student at Institute of Law, Nirma University and
  2. Mandvi Khangarot, Student at Institute of Law, Nirma University
Also Read:
  1. Whether There Is A Need To Regulate Autonomous Vehicles At This Nascent Stage Of Its Development?

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly