Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Liability

While the concept of self-driving cars once felt like something out of the future, it is now something of the present. Self-driving cars exist and are in use today, and it seems that their place in the market is only going to increase. Tesla has begun adding a self-driving program to their cars, while Toyota showed off their own prototype vehicle in 2020, and Honda began commercially selling their self-driving car in 2021. It seems like the technology is quickly working its way into the mainstream.

Self-driving technology is achieved through an advanced control system responding to various sensors, including radar, GPS, and odometry, as well as recognizing incoming signs and hazards. There are different levels of self-driving cars, as regulated by the Society of Automotive Engineers, ranging from shared control of the vehicle all the way to vehicles not even having a steering wheel. Tesla’s current self-driving feature asks for drivers to remain alert and keep their hands on the wheel, while Waymo is currently operating self-driving taxis without a driver present in the car whatsoever, only a virtual one watching remotely in real time.

Self-driving cars currently have a higher rate of accidents, with 9.1 reported accidents per million miles driven versus the 4.1 average of regular vehicles. It is worth mentioning that there is a vastly smaller pool of self-driving cars available on the market. Accidents reported also tend to be less severe in self-driving cars as opposed to regular motor vehicles. Self-driving cars reduce the impact of human error, which causes 94% of all vehicular accidents, but opens itself up to other dangers, including fire and cyber attacks.

Let’s imagine that a fully automated self-driving car crashed into a regular vehicle. Who would be held at fault for the accident? The owner of the car, who was sitting inside it but not operating it? The car manufacturer, who created the system that was operating the car? The regular vehicle, for provoking something in the self-driving car that led to the accident?

These are all good questions. The truth of the matter is that we are still years away from fully automated self-driving cars being available on the market. All the self-driving cars that are currently commercially available for anyone to buy require a human driver to stay attentive and be prepared to take over the driving at any moment. When buyers purchase the car, they are agreeing to the safety terms that hold them responsible for not taking things into their own hands if there is an accident.

Extrapolating the current status quo, it is easy to imagine a future where owners of self-driving cars have to accept liability for any accidents caused by their vehicles in order to purchase one, even if they never operate them personally. It is one of the many questions that the auto industry has to answer on their road to fully automated self-driving cars – a path that it is clear we are heading towards.

For help receiving damages for any injuries received in auto accidents (self-driving or not,) contact Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC today! We provide zealous and compassionate representation for injury victims and their families.

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri.

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