Just Who is Responsible When Self-Driving Cars Crash?

Thanks to two separate incidents involving self-driving vehicles in California, the question of accidents and who is liable when there’s no human driver to blame has become a hotly debated topic.

In late January, fire service officials in Culver City reported that a self-driving Tesla S hit the rear of one of their fire trucks on the freeway. In that case, the Tesla was reportedly going 65 miles per hour in its autopilot mode. The other incident, in December 2017, involved a Chevy Bolt that collided with a motorcyclist when the car went to change lanes. According to the report filed by GM with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the Bolt “grazed” the side of the bike. The motorcyclist in that case was injured and filed a lawsuit against the car maker, which is the first claim against a self-driving car.

With car accidents, it can be challenging to determine who is at fault under normal circumstances, and that challenge becomes immense when you add cars running on autonomous systems into the mix. It’s important to note that many “self-driving” cars aren’t completely independent, as most of these models still rely on some input from a driver who is behind the wheel. When you have been in an accident, you may find it helpful to discuss the particulars of your situation with an auto accident lawyer Denver CO residents are fortunate to have in their midst.

Industry watchers believe that in the case of both California incidents, the human drivers are still partly to blame. There are also questions surrounding the effectiveness of the Automated Emergency Braking [AEB] systems used in self-driving and other cars. These systems are designed to allow a car to brake on its own if it senses an impending collision, but the driver is not reacting in enough time. Unfortunately, many of these systems don’t kick in until a driver is touching the brakes, which is often too late.

Both GM and Tesla have had their share of crashes already with their self-driving models. In California, where autonomous car testing is given fewer restrictions than other areas, more than 30 accidents related to these types of vehicles have been registered since 2014. However, it is the testing that will allow producers and designers to tweak aspects of self-driving cars so they can be safely and successfully deployed on streets around the country.

Until more self-driving cars hit the streets, it will be difficult to determine where the blame for accidents with self-driving cars will ultimately rest. The car designers, producers, human drivers (if applicable) and even the system propelling the cars themselves could all potentially share the liability for crashes. The case involving the Bolt and the motorcyclist will certainly be watched closely by those in the industry as it could lay part of the foundation for autonomous car crash liability for years to come.

Even self-driving cars crash, despite all the testing, monitoring and safety systems included in them. Safe roads for all drivers is still a long way off; car accidents happen all across the country every day. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, contact an experienced auto attorney about your losses and your case today.


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