If your vehicle has a steering wheel, you'll essentially still be on the hook for any crashes.

If you're behind the wheel of a car - literally - you'll always be liable in automotive accidents, no matter what sort of autonomous features your vehicle has. That's according to a new report from Canadian legal firm Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG).

The firm says that in regards to current Canadian laws, new semi-autonomous features such as lane-keep assist and automatic braking aren't much different than cruise control. In other words, telling police that your collision alert system didn't go off, causing you to rear-end a vehicle, is equivalent to blaming your cruise control for initiating an accident.

If your vehicle has a steering wheel, you'll essentially still be on the hook for any collisions; you won't be able to pass the blame your car's manufacturer, for instance.

"As long as a driver with some ability to assume or resume control of the vehicle is present, there would seem to be a continuing basis for driver negligence and liability as they presently exist," states the report.

These questions are being raised even as a spotlight is shining on semi-autonomous vehicles. In June, a driver in Florida died after the Autopilot program in his Tesla Model S allegedly didn't work properly, causing his car to hit a truck. Debates are raging as to who was at fault. Tesla says it has warnings telling drivers to always be in control of the vehicle, while others say Tesla shouldn't even include the software in the Model S.

Ontario launched a program in January that allows automakers to test their self-driving cars on public roads. Reportedly, no car companies have applied for a testing permit as of July.

The conclusion, if you don't already know it, is clear - you should never rely solely on whatever autonomous features your vehicle might have. You may drive a Volvo that will brake and accelerate for you in stop-and-go traffic, but that doesn't mean you should be reading the newspaper or texting your friend while the system is activated.

Source: Canadian Underwriter, Borden Ladner Gervais

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