Google has been publicly testing self-driving cars in its backyards for a few years, but it was only last week that the world found out that the company had quietly spun off a separate company, Google Auto, to oversee its car-related ventures.
Citing documents obtained through Public Records Act request, the Guardian reported on August 1 that Google Auto LLC was created in late 2011.
The company was established as a limited liability company, the report says, likely to protect the parent from liability in its risky new endeavor: If Google test vehicles get into accidents, the legal separation makes it more difficult for a plaintiff to go after Google’s assets in court.
The issue of liability—whether it lies with the individual car owner or the self-driving software maker—is a major question facing the auto insurance industry in a future where autonomous vehicles (AV) are expected to become the norm. The question probably won’t be answered until its tested in the courts.