June 25, 2020
June 25, 2020


Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushedfar enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place whichslave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all whymost of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeingmankind to pursue its higher aspirations[1]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Nikola Tesla
The automobile industry has been on the pinnacle of development in India, and has been on brink of technological revolution, one of which is the autonomous/self-driven cars. The driverless/autonomous systems seemingly would increase safety and save hundreds of lives[2]. This development, however, has implications, which can be either derogatory or beneficial to humanity. A number of jurisdictions across the world have already started working on its regulation and on the plausible challenges which may arise out of such an advancement. The legal ramifications of these could be intricate to address by existing framework of Indian Laws, which involve a majority of issues like liability in cases of accidents, of ethics and standard duty of care, privacy, surveillance police. However, the existing laws which govern these are silent on these issues, though the driverless cars are non-existent in India, but are expected to get on roads sooner or later which would call for laws to regulate it.
The first step towards self-driven cars was the Novus Drive, which was exhibited in Defexpo 2016 in New Delhi, India. This was introduced as an alternative to internal transport system, for colleges, hospitals, theme parks, and other institutes where internal commute poses any issue.[3] Also, India has been trying constantly on installation of driverless metro, in Delhi, driverless pods in Gurugram, Haryana. Considering the research and test ongoing and implemented, India is not far away from driverless or automated cars. The legal ramifications, it poses needs rigorous scrutiny.
Issues with its Implications
The possible attribution to the liability for the harms caused by autonomous systems is complicated and this can further be attributedto the replacement of human actors[4](subjects of law in traditional law) to artificial intelligence (nowhere recognized).This has put forth a gamut of issues in the forefront of AI based autonomous cars in India, few among those issues are-
Liability and Insurance-The determination of liability in an accident caused by an automated vehicle gets intricate, as to whose fault would it be[5], when an accident occurs. The liability in case of software operated vehicle needs to be gauged on different parameters than are presented in the present framework. A recent example for this reference, is the man who met with an accident with the 18-wheeler truck, while the auto-driven car’s sensors ceased to work. This case raised ambiguities, with respect to the ascertainment of liability and who is to be held liable, the car manufacturer? The driver? Or the Third party?It is much debated and argued that the manufacturer in such cases should be held liable, if the system of the automated vehicle, fails or renders the car in an uncontrollable situation.
Standard of Duty of Care-The mention of standards of duty of care is a must, as its regulation would prerequisite a number of measures to be followed, including speed, a mandatory human operator in emergencies, infrastructure, liabilities in case of third-party injury and much more. The stance of collision between two-driverless cars needs to be clarified with respect to liability. The question of civility, in cases of necessity, the ethical issue of choosing a less harmful act. This all sums up to call for better than existing regulation to cope up with these challenges.
Privacy and Data Protection- The safety concerns in case of automated vehicles, includes those of privacy concerns, tracking, surveillance mechanisms. The unauthorized access to these automated vehicles, by hackers could hamper and infringe the privacy of regular route and these may cause catastrophic results by invasion in system of autonomous vehicles.[6] From the standpoint of a hacker, the potential for cyberattacks increases drastically as more and more number of cars are connected to the internet.[7]
Entrenchments of Indian Laws over Autonomous Vehicles
 In light of the issues discussed above, the applicability and authority of Indian laws needs to looked at which includes the following legislation Motor Vehicles Act 1939, Consumer Protection Act 1986, Information Technology Act 2000, Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 and the plausible changes to create a paradigm shift among those could be-
Motor Vehicles Act, 1939- This Act has a number of mandates which are required for vehicle to get on roads, few among which are that the vehicle must not be driven without the license[8], the mandatory age of 18 to drive a motor vehicle, etc. However, the point subjected to question in the automated cars, is whether or not, the responsibilities of “owner” should be subrogated to the vehicle’s manufacturer (owing to the processors)?
The provision of “no-fault liability”[9] which was initially recommended by the Law commission of India and also in the Supreme Court judgment of ManushriRaha v. B.L. Gupta[10], which provides for strict liability in cases of accident to the owner or the insurance company on the owner’s behalf, were enacted in the year 1988 by way of amendment. In the year 2019 also, the Motor Vehicles (amendment)Act was enacted, which now inculcates the autonomous technologies under the clause 2B, which now gives the government an open arm to exempt new technologies, invention etc.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (CPA)-The manufactures, in cases of autonomous cars will be subjected to a higher standard of duty and care, than in the normal course of action. The issues pertaining to negligence, warning failure, breach of warranty and a majority of issues will fall under the CPA. The liability, as far as CPA is concerned would either lie on the manufacturer or on the technology provider.
Information Technology Act, 2000-Inter Alia the privacy and Data Protection provisions would be majorly dealt by this act, and its subsidiary by laws(Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011) which specifies the protection of sensitive data and personal information. These laws however, have to incorporate specific provision with respect to the autonomous vehicle and its functioning is concerned.
Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016- The regulation of autonomous cars also requires the technological advancements, and enhanced mapping infrastructure which would ensure a higher degree of accuracy in GPS (Global Positioning System).
Considering these laws, there is a wide scope of inculcations of technology or artificial intelligence laws within the legal framework, and put forth a wide arena of law which is open to any issue which arises because of any technological advancements.
Snags in Implementation of such laws and Conclusion
Artificial Intelligence has now influenced almost every field of law,but the law lags behind the technology.To bottle down the whole argument, the implementation of driverless cars and vehicles paves way for a cleaner environment, better quality of life, safer mode of transportation, however, it also provides for the far fledged yet significant implications of its implementation as no technology could perfectly reduce the accident rate to zero. The existing laws have not yet adapted or are not in conformity with the existing technologies. As a proposal, the author in the research so far concluded, would like to emphasise on the strict liability model, through which the original owner and the manufacturer of the car should assume the liability of the accidents occurring in such instances. Owing to the third-party insurance mechanisms in India, no new systems in the insurance mechanisms have to introduced.


[1] Matt Novak, “Nikola Tesla’s Amazing Predictions for the 21st Century”, Smithsonian (Apr. 19, 2013); K.C. Webb, “Products Liability and Autonomous Vehicles: Who’s Driving Whom? “23 Rich. JL. & Tech. 9 (2016),http://jolt.richmond.edu/2017/05/13/volume23_issue4webb/.

[2] Melissa Bauman, “Why Waiting for Perfect Autonomous Vehicles May Cost Lives”, Rand Corp. (Nov. 7, 2017), https://www.rand.org/blog/articles; Joshua D. Borneman, “Let’s Get This Show on the Road: Driverless Cars Have Arrived and It’s Time to Advance the Regulatory Framework”, 28 Cath. U. J. L. & Tech 51 (2019).

[3] John Greenough, BI Intelligence, “10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020”, http://www.busin essinsider.com/report-10-million-self-driving-carswill- be-on-the-road-by-2020-2015-5-6?IR=T.

[4]Simon Burton et al., “Mind the gaps: Assuring the safety of autonomous systems from an engineering, ethical, and legal perspective”, 279 Artificial Intelligence 103201 (2020).

[5]John Villasenor, “Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation”(2014), https://www.brookings.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2016/06/Products_Liability_and_Driverless_Cars.pdf (Assessed on May 4, 2020).

[6]KPMG, “Self-driving cars: The next revolution” (2015), https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg /pdf/2015/10/se lf-driving-cars-next-revolution_new.pdf (Assessed on May 4, 2020).

[7]Nishith Desai Assosiates, “Preparing for a Driverless Future Re-Shaping the Transportation Landscape & Conquering the Sky- Strategic, Legal, Tax and Ethical Issues” (2019).

[8] Section 3(1), Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.

[9]Section 140“Liability to pay compensation in certain cases on the principle of no fault”, Section 141 “Provisions as to other right to claim compensation for death or permanent disablement”, 142 “Permanent disablement”, 143 “Applicability of Chapter to certain claims under Act 8 of 1923”, 144 “Overriding effect” of Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.

[10] 1977 AIR 1158




Shivansh Soni is a Second-year law student from Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur. 





In content picture credits: aitrends.com

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