AUTONOMOUS MACHINERY AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW
I recently read a news release announcing that WalMart was planning to expand a current program that utilizes self-driving, floor-cleaning robots to cover 360 stores beginning next year. According to the article, WalMart currently operates over 100 of these commercial floor-cleaners. Those powered by the BrainOS platform will, at the push of a button, clean along a pre-programmed route, using sensors to scan for people and obstacles.
Of course, the retailer and designers market the safety of the machines, however there are a myriad of potential concerns regarding the safety of this machine for both customers and employees of the retailer alike. A machine of this size could easily injure a person, particularly the elderly and children. Will there be any quality-control to monitor the performance of the machine? What cleaning efforts will be allotted to the areas outside of the machine’s programmed route? Are the machines performing other functions such as capturing audio or video? Should these machines be required to maintain data regarding collisions and other incidents, similar to electronic data recorders (black boxes) found in some vehicles?
These are all important areas of concern should someone attempt to litigate a case against a retailer employing this type of device, as retailers owe certain duties of care to their customers. Should an incident like this happen to you, it will be extremely important to take photographs, gather names and numbers of witnesses (whether employees or other customers), and report the incident to the retailer. Thereafter, contact a qualified attorney immediately.