An 18-year-old college freshman finishes her final mid-term.

Exhausted but excited, she walks to the parking lot and spotsher already packed sedan and gets in to head out for spring break.She pulls away from campus and places her car into autonomous mode.

Wanting to let her friends know she is on her way, she reachesinto her purse to grab her cell phone and starts sending a text. Inwhat feels like an instant later, she squints open her eyes to theharsh fluorescent bulb above as a nurse tells her she was in anaccident. In those few seconds she took her eyes off the road,trusting her safety to her car's "autonomy," an SUV broadsided herat an intersection at 50 miles per hour.

New era changes notions of liability

Fortunately, this account is fictitious, but the scenarioexemplifies how, from a legal perspective, the autonomous vehicle erawill change notions of liability where even the distracted driver isnot necessarily at-fault. There will be a whole new playbook, newtheories of liability, and human vs. machine accounts that amountto "he said, it said."

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