Chris Bryant & Henry Foy:

Who is to blame if your self-driving car crashes? The automotive industry is trying to answer this somewhat futuristic question, according to the chief executive of parts supplier Continental.

However, Elmar Degenhart said the issue – a possible barrier to a future of robot cars – remains to be solved.

Autonomous vehicles are one of the car industry’s most competitive areas of innovation, with some estimates suggesting that the potential to cut road deaths and injuries could be worth more than $5tn in benefits.

But while carmakers and outside players such as Google race to fine-tune the technology, complex questions of liability are starting to confound executives over what happens if a driver takes their hands off the wheel and an accident occurs.

“Who is liable when during partly or fully-autonomous driving the responsibility for what the car does is transferred from the driver to the car. Who is liable for the vehicle: is it the manufacturer, a neutral institution, or . . . [the part] supplier?” Mr Degenhart asked.