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Who is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Who is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident?

iLawyer January 27, 2021 Personal injury

Technology is changing rapidly when it comes to the transportation industry. Automated vehicles are beginning to operate on the roadways, including here in Arizona. As more and more companies pour money into self-driving technology, it is important to understand who can be held liable in the event that an accident occurs involving these vehicles. There are many types of self-driving technologies on the roadway. Some of these technologies simply assist drivers with certain activities, while other technologies take more control over a vehicle. Here, we want to discuss liability in the aftermath of a self-driving vehicle accident.

Self-driving means many things in today’s world

The term “self-driving vehicle” conjures up many images in people’s minds. Some people consider self-driving vehicles to be completely autonomous, meant to be used without the assistance of a driver’s input. To be sure, there have been companies that have tested this technology, and they are still testing this technology throughout the United States today. Drivers in Arizona will be very familiar with the dangers of self-driving vehicles, as the state was home to the first fatality involving a self-driving car. Ultimately, the test driver behind the wheel was found to be responsible for this incident, but this certainly raised the awareness of the dangers of these new technologies.

There are no commercially available completely autonomous vehicles driving on the roadways in the United States right now. However, most modern vehicles do have some form of self-driving features involved, with different companies offering varying degrees of autonomous features. For example, some vehicles are able to completely park themselves, and others have smart cruise control features that keep your vehicle a proper distance from other vehicles on the roadway. Some vehicles are able to take over and brake or steer the car away from hazardous situations.

In some cases, particularly with Tesla vehicles, some vehicles will take over just about all driving responsibilities while the driver is supposed to “remain ready to take over at all times.” If you have seen the news over the last few years, you have likely watched stories about drivers catching other drivers on video completely asleep behind the wheel of a self-driving vehicle.

Liability for self-driving collisions

The reality is that liability for self-driving collision will likely fall back to the driver sitting behind the wheel. Every company that creates a vehicle with autonomous features is quick to point out that drivers must be ready to take over their driving responsibilities at all times.

Jake Fisher is the director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, and he says that “These systems don’t make the vehicle self-driving by any means. They require an attentive driver who’s able to take over the controls at a moment’s notice.”

As mass adoption of self-driving technology increases, advocates say that this will dramatically reduce accidents because it takes away the human error factor that is the cause of most collisions. But we are not there yet. Current auto liability laws were not written with autonomous or self-driving vehicles in mind. There is no legal scenario in which default liability will fall back to the auto company when there is a driver in the actual driver’s seat that is supposed to remain in control of the vehicle.

As personal injury law evolves with these new technologies, theories of liability will likely change over time. Right now, it is crucial that any person injured in an accident involving a self-driving or autonomous vehicle work with a skilled Scottsdale personal injury lawyer who can help them secure the compensation they need.

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