Who’ll be responsible when self-driving car crashes?

Washington is welcoming self-driving cars to use the state’s roads as testing grounds. But who’s responsible if one causes a crash, the driver or the carmaker? With the technology still evolving, there is no clear answer.

Fully self-driving cars aren’t quite here yet, but they’re coming.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order earlier this month welcoming companies to use Washington roads as a testing ground for driverless cars.

With the vast majority of collisions caused by human error, self-driving cars carry the potential to dramatically decrease crashes on the road. But, especially while self-driving cars share the road with standard ones, it’s unlikely that collisions will disappear entirely.

An Uber self-driving car crashed in Arizona in March, and a Tesla in autopilot mode crashed in Florida last year, killing its driver.

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Regardless of who or what was at fault in those instances, self-driving cars will still have to interact with drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Which raises the question for this week’s Traffic Lab Q&A: Who’s responsible if a self-driving car is involved in — or causes — a crash?

“If an accident occurs and it’s deemed the error was on the part of the self-driving auto, who gets sued?” asked John McLain, of Whidbey Island. “Do you seek redress from the vehicle’s owner or from the manufacturer? If two self-driving vehicles…

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