Design-Defect Tests Applied to AV Scenarios

Status: Complete

Lead Researcher(s)

Bryce Pilz
Directory of Licensing, University of Michigan Office Of Tech Transfer

Project Team

Project Abstract

Instead of merely hypothesizing about alternative legal frameworks that could be adopted for product-liability claims involving autonomous vehicles (AV), the best approach is to examine the human element. The most important element of a product-liability case—the claimant—determines the path of the product-liability claim: whether to retain an attorney; whether to seek an early, out-of-court settlement; whether to pursue a lawsuit; whether to settle the lawsuit prior to trial; whether to have the case tried before a jury. More than 1,500 owners of personal-use vehicles (model years 2013-2018) were surveyed to gain a better understanding of their perspectives on automated driving systems (ADS) and their willingness to participate in alternative dispute resolution programs. Additionally, top product-liability litigators from across the country were surveyed about their viewpoints on the direction of product-liability litigation involving ADS. The data gathered by these two surveys have been supplemented with an analysis of historical crash data maintained by the National Highway Transportation System Administration. In the final step, the data were combined with the knowledge and experience of the product-liability litigation process, along with the importance of integrating the voice of the consumer into the product-development process to devise potential solutions and next steps for the industry.

Project Outcome

A 50-state survey will identify which states use the risk-utility test and which use the consumer-expectations test, and identify particular doctrinal nuances. Several foreseeable AV-crash fact patterns will be envisaged, and the design-defect legal analyses compiled in the survey will be applied to each.


BUDGET YEAR: 2018-01-01
RESEARCH CATEGORY: LEGAL LIABILITY & INSURANCE