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21st Century Car Crash Summary

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In “21st Century Car Crash”, Rachel Rubenstein’s self-driving car, a product of Eliva Industries, T-bones Shimon Shalom’s car to avoid killing a jaywalking pedestrian. Mr. Shalom’s Rabbi sends him to the Beit Din to sue for damages, which Ms. Rubenstein is reluctant to pay. She claims that Eli Levine, the owner of Eliva Industries, is at fault. After all, his company’s programming drove the car to turn away from the jaywalker and crash into another car. Ms. Rubenstein says that she would have just slammed on the brakes, had there been a manual override option. Mr. Levine has informed the Beit Din that swerving must have been the safest course of action, or the car wouldn’t have done it. Now the court must decide who, if anyone, is liable…show more content…
Levine to make any other changes to his self-driving car program because of ethical and halakhic concerns. The system is currently programmed to do whatever it can in order to save a life, which is why it hit Mr. Shalom’s car rather than hitting the person walking. According to “pikuah nefesh,” there is nothing that stands in the way of saving a life except for idolatry, robbery, sexual immorality, and murder (Novellae of Ramban (1194-1270) to Ketubot 19a s.v. Ha). Making changes to Mr. Levine’s program could also entail malfunctions or mishaps that could potentially cause more harm than good. This coincides with Bava Kama’s teachings that the steps of helping yourself are not worth destroying another person's self or property (Tosafot (12th-13th c.) Bava Kama 60b s.v. Mahu). Therefore, no other changes must be made to the car’s programming. Saving a life or following halakhic teachings should always come first.
According to halakhic convention, as presented by the sources provided, Ms. Rubenstein and Mr. Shalom’s shared insurance company is liable. Because the self-driving car falls under the “fire” category of damages, its owner must pay. In this situation, the insurance company represents Ms. Rubenstein. Because she has the appropriate insurance for such a vehicle, the money must come from them. Mr. Levine is exempt, though future ElivaTM models ought to provide some sort of manual override option, if only to protect the company from future legal
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