When Robots Commit Crime, Who Should Be Charged?
"Once the stuff of science fiction, cars driven by robots could soon
become a reality—but what happens when one of these cars is involved in
an accident? In a study titled, 'If Robots Cause Harm, Who Is to Blame?
Self-Driving Cars and Criminal Liability,' forthcoming in New Criminal
Law Review, researchers consider whether individuals who program and
operate the robots should bear the responsibility for injuries, damages
or loss of human life caused by the machines.
'If robots cannot be punished, under what conditions should humans be
held criminally responsible for producing, programming, or using
intelligent machines that cause harm?' write Sabine Gless, Emily
Silverman and Thomas Weigend. 'Take, for example, a self-driving car
that runs over a small child because its environment-scanning sensors
misinterpreted its surroundings and failed to identify the child as a
The authors note that while private (civil) law allows 'entities
other than natural persons' to be held liable for damages, 'acts' of
non-human agents are difficult to accommodate in criminal law. And
since there is no international criminal law governing robots, countries
must come up with solutions based on their own general rules and
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