Who is Responsible for a Driverless Car Accident?
Semi-driverless cars are already hitting roadways across the United States, as well as in the Greater San Antonio region. The same is true for popular ride-sharing vehicles in the San Antonio area, such as Uber. These vehicles, however, are not completely driverless right now. Instead, they are simply equipped with driverless features.
General Motors is currently working on a fully automated car which is pending approval by the United States Department of Transportation. The vehicle is expected to be unveiled in 2019. In addition to general motors, competitors, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are working on developing fully driverless models by the year 2022.
These new automated vehicles are expected to still be equipped with the features we see in automobiles today, such as airbags on the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle. Fully driverless vehicles are also expected to maintain their conventional shape. For instance, the new vehicles will have standard seats which face the front of the vehicle and will still have a dashboard in the center of the vehicle. These fully automated vehicles will also be equipped with advanced safety features that can park the vehicle automatically.
As for now, many newer vehicles are coming equipped with driverless features. This is especially true with Tesla models. Although these advanced driving and safety features are helpful in many respects, they can also pose significant challenges. It is important to keep in mind that these new features are not foolproof, and they can and sometimes do malfunction. In some cases, for example, a vehicle’s driverless system may not identify a roadway hazard or obstruction – or be able to pull a vehicle over to a safe area. The question in these cases is who can be held responsible for the accident.
If you are involved in a serious motor vehicle collision, the San Antonio driverless car accident attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas can review your case with you and present you with legal options.
Levels of Automation on Vehicles
The terms “self-driving” and “autonomous” can mean different things to different people. When it comes to driverless vehicles today, manufacturers are establishing a range to represent the level of automation on a particular vehicle. For example, a Level 0 means that a human driver must
take full responsibility for operating and controlling the motor vehicle. A Level 5 means that the vehicle is 100 percent automated and has no need for a human driver.
Vehicles today that are equipped with some automatic features are able to do the following:
- Prevent unsafe lane changes on a busy highway or roadway
- Warn drivers that there is a vehicle or object behind them as they are backing up
- Alerting drivers to the presence of another vehicle in an adjacent lane
- Automatically stopping a vehicle if the vehicle in front of them stops abruptly.
New vehicle technologies are very advanced. Cameras, infrared detection, mirrors, and sensors are used to alert drivers of dangers which are present on the roadway. These technologies can help to prevent serious motor vehicle accidents from occurring.
Since many of these cameras and detection units are long range, they can also be used to alert drivers of cyclists and pedestrians who are located on or near the roadway – or who are present in a nearby crosswalk.
Legal Ramifications of Partial and Full Vehicle Automation
One important benefit of partial and full vehicle automation is that as technology continues to advance, the number of motor vehicle accidents will hopefully decrease. Motor vehicle accidents are not cheap for anyone involved. In addition to the property damage sustained in a San Antonio motor vehicle accident, these accidents are also expensive in terms of personal damages, including the amount of medical treatment and bills, the length of hospital stays, and the decreased quality of life for accident victims.
Moreover, when individuals sustain injuries in serious motor vehicle accidents, they may have to miss time from work in order to recuperate and attend medical appointments. This results in lack of productivity at the office, as well as potential lost wages for the injured accident victim. Advanced safety features and driverless technology on motor vehicles, therefore, will hopefully lessen the number of accidents that occur in a given year and decrease the number of injury claims filed.
Taking Legal Action after a Driverless Car Accident
With the advent of driverless cars and automated driving technology on the market today, one issue that has emerged is the question of who will be responsible for motor vehicle accidents caused by driverless cars. Since total driverless technology is not yet available on the market, it is difficult to tell how courts will rule when it comes to legal responsibility for a completely driverless motor vehicle collision.
For now, some motor vehicles are equipped with certain driverless features, but they are not totally driverless. Consequently, human beings still have some degree of control over how the motor vehicle moves and how fast it travels. In a motor vehicle accident involving one of these vehicles, the driver could still be fully or partially to blame for violating a traffic law, such as a speed limit law or running a red light.
On the other hand, since these vehicles are equipped with driverless features, there could be a potential products liability claim arising out of the motor vehicle collision. For example, an accident victim may be able to argue that the accident occurred because a driverless system or feature was improperly manufactured or designed and that this defect resulted in the accident and injuries.
Contact a San Antonio Driverless Car Accident Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation and Case Evaluation
The San Antonio car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of George Salinas are continuing to monitor developments in driverless technology – and in the law. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a San Antonio driverless car accident attorney, please call us today at (210) 528-1536, or contact us online.