The Rise of Self-Driving Cars: Is the Private International Law Framework for non-contractual obligations posing a bump in the road?

  • Jan De Bruyne
  • Cedric Vanleenhove


This article focusses on some implications related to the commercialisation of self-driving or autonomous cars. Such vehicles are no longer a mere futuristic idea. They could soon be available on the market. Society in general and the applicable rules in particular will undergo a transformation following the introduction of autonomous vehicles. Despite the many benefits, self-driving cars also pose several challenges. These do not only relate to technical aspects but also to the influence of the autonomisation of traffic on infrastructure and employment in different sectors. More importantly, several legal challenges will need to be addressed as well before society will be able to fully enjoy the benefits of self-driving cars. The question as to who should be held liable for damage caused by self-driving car has already been addressed in academia. Less attention has been devoted to the relationship between autonomous vehicles and the existing private international law rules in the European Union. Although the application of the current jurisdictional and conflict of laws rules does not present problems, the membership of some EU Member States of the 1971 Hague Traffic Accidents Convention and/or the 1973 Hague Products Liability Convention impedes the harmonisation of conflict of laws rules in non-contractual matters as envisaged by the Rome II Regulation. In cases concerning liability arising from traffic accidents and in product liability cases, different Member States courts sometimes apply a different national law. This reduces foreseeability and legal certainty.


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