Self Driving Cars Legal Issues: Determining Fault & Liability in Autonomous Car Accidents

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Liability when it comes to accidents involving self-driving cars is an increasingly important topic, as more and more accidents appear to be occurring on a regular basis, even with the minimal number of these vehicles currently on the road, most of them placed there by companies such as Uber, Google, and Tesla.

This includes a number of accidents that have occurred here in California as well. These accidents tend to be more complicated than typical auto accidents because, while the cars are “self-driving, autonomous vehicles,” there is still a human being behind the wheel who is supposed to exercise a certain amount of control over the vehicle in order to keep it safe on the roads. At this time, the fallout from these crashes has raised the question as to whether or not these cars are simply too dangerous to allow on the roads.

Do These Imperfect Vehicles Simply Encourage “Drivers” Not to Pay Attention, and Thus Cause Accidents?

In addition to the potential for collisions with other cars, what’s of particular concern are the accidents involving the vehicles’ inability to understand what a pedestrian is, and thus the likelihood of the vehicle registering a pedestrian as an unavoidable object on the road, and hitting it. For example, in the case of the notorious, recent pedestrian death in Arizona, Uber had reportedly removed the ability for the self-driving car to brake for itself in case of an emergency, which means that doing so was dependent on the “driver,” who may or may not have understood the limitations of the vehicles they were in. In the Arizona case, investigators determined that the driver could have stopped the car almost 43 feet before impact, had she been paying attention, but she did not touch the brakes until after the crash.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Still, a number of advocates of self-driving cars point out that, once the kinks have been worked out, these cars have the potential to significantly reduce the human error that leads to tens of thousands of lives being lost on U.S. roads due to “avoidable accidents.” That being said, law enforcement having to determine if a given accident was unavoidable or not is difficult, and will undoubtedly have an impact on liability in auto accident claims, although these vehicles can track “driver” activity, such as how many times the driver looked away from the road, as well as whether they were streaming any movies or shows in the car.

Contact Our California Car Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been involved in a California car accident—whether that accident involved a self-driving vehicle or not—you should speak with a California car accident lawyer right away to find out what you can do to ensure that you receive what you need to get back on the road to recovery. Contact our experienced attorneys today to find out more.

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