Liability in Crashes Caused by Self-Driving Cars

Published on March 15, 2017, by Matthew Sharp

Car Accident

Liability in Crashes Caused by Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars are meant to increase safety, but they raise issues concerning liability when they are involved in accidents. People who are struck by self-driving cars may wonder whether the drivers are liable or if the cars are liable. Currently, the drivers of self-driving cars are liable if they cause accidents. As the technology continues to improve, the liability may end up changing to the vehicle manufacturers instead. A car accident attorney in Reno believes that liability questions will be determined by a body of case law that will develop as more accidents involving self-driving cars happen.

Current Self-Driving Car Technology

Currently, cars such as the Tesla Model X and the Uber self-driving cars are beginning to become more common. Google also continues to test its vehicles, and some trucking companies have completed a couple of test runs of self-driving trucks. Self-driving vehicles are meant to make cars safer by reducing or eliminating the potential for human error. A majority of accidents are currently caused by human mistakes. Self-driving cars currently have an autonomous mode, but the drivers are able to take over at any time that they feel that they need to do so.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has outlined five automation levels. The first level involves cars that have cruise control. Level two involves vehicles that have partial automation, which is the level where self-driving technology currently stands. The vehicles are able to use artificial intelligence to steer, decelerate and accelerate while also sensing pedestrians and objects around the vehicles. The human drivers are still expected to monitor the driving at all times and to take over when doing so is necessary.

Self-driving Car Liability

Several accidents have been caused by self-driving vehicles. In each one, the driver has been deemed to be liable. Because the drivers are expected to monitor the car at all times, if the vehicle causes an accident when the driver didn’t take over, the driver will be considered to be at fault. As vehicles move towards full automation, experts believe that the liability will transfer from the drivers to the vehicles. This means that the manufacturers may be deemed to be liable for car accidents involving their autonomous vehicles in the future. Law enforcement officers will likely be tasked with determining whether the drivers or the cars were in control after accidents. A car accident attorney in Reno believes that self-driving cars will lead to fewer accidents.