For questions of liability, a differentiation must be made between the vehicle owner, vehicle operator and manufacturer.
Vehicle owner: In principle, according to Article 58 para 1 SVG, the owner of a motor vehicle is liable for the damages caused by the operation of such vehicle, regardless of whether he was driving the vehicle himself or someone else was driving. Such liability does not require any kind of fault by the owner.
There is currently no specific legislation with respect to the liability of the owner of cars driving in automated driving mode. The general rules apply and the vehicle owner becomes liable regardless of the cause for the damage. He is also liable if, for example, a malfunctioning automated driving system was the cause for the damage.
For this reason, the vehicle owner is required to have a motor vehicle liability insurance ("Motorfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung", Art. 63 SVG), which covers any damage caused while a motor vehicle is operated.
Vehicle operator: The liability of the operator is assessed according to Article 41 para 1 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO). Article 41 CO constitutes a fault-based liability. Pursuant to the current Article 31 para 1 SVG, the operator must necessarily be in control of the vehicle at all times. Currently, Article 31 para 1 SVG also applies to AVs. There are no specific provisions for autonomous vehicles. Therefore, if the operator of an AV fails to comply with Article 31 para 1 SVG, he is automatically at fault and will be liable for any damage caused by the car.
If Article 31 para 1 SVG were to be amended in the future, in respect of an accident with a car in automated driving mode (e.g. an AV SEA Level 5), it may be that the operator will no longer be held to be automatically at fault and, therefore, the liability of vehicle operators may decrease in the future.
Manufacturers: Currently, the focus in Switzerland rests on the owner's and operator's liability. While the owner's liability will most likely also apply to AVs in the future, the operator's liability may decrease (see above).
If, in the future, a car in automated driving mode causes an accident, it may not be the fault of the operator but rather the fault of the manufacturer (e.g. failure of safety system). This shifts the question of liability to the product liability of the manufacturer pursuant to Article 1 Product Liability Act ("Produktehaftpflichtgesetz", PrHG;). But due to the complexity of the AVs' systems, it will become more difficult in the future to prove a causal defect, which is a condition for liability under the PrHG. Hence, it is likely that new forms of liability of manufacturers of AVs could be introduced into Swiss law in the future.
Joint and several liability: If the requirements are met for liability of the vehicle owner, operator and manufacturer, they are jointly and severally liable pursuant to Article 60 para 1 SVG. Since the damaged party has a direct claim against the insurance company of the vehicle owner (Article 65 SVG), such party usually pursues the insurance company. While recourse of the insurer against the vehicle operator is regulated by the law, there remain many issues regarding possible recourse to the manufacturer of the AV. Currently, the relevant legislation is being revised.