Driverless cars: will life imitate art when it comes to safety?

Whether drivers like them or not, autonomous or driverless cars are coming soon to a road near you. In February this year, the Government announced the development of a process to support more advanced trials of automated vehicles. It estimates that the UK market for connected and automated vehicles could be worth as much as £52 billion by 2035, writes Nat Barnes.

And with trials already under way on British roads, they may, in fact, already be there without you even realising. But while that boost to the economy will be all too welcome, what about the future ethical and moral dilemmas of driverless cars?

Who will be to blame in the event of an accident? The person inside the car? The car manufacturer itself? The software engineers?

All these questions and more are bought into sharp focus in a new novel by Abi Silver, The Cinderella Plan. In the book, an autonomous car is involved in an accident in which two children are killed and the mother is badly injured while crossing the road.

Adding a further element of intrigue is that the person at the wheel of the car at the time is James Salisbury (a fictional mix of Elon Musk and James Dyson), the owner of the company, SEDA, which makes the car that he’s driving. In the resulting court case, if Salisbury is found guilty then he could go to prison, but if he isn’t then the entire future of his company could be in doubt.

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