It doesn’t matter if it is obvious who caused a crash or if the cause must be established; one thing is certain. The at-fault driver is responsible for paying for injuries and losses suffered by the other driver. It is more difficult to determine who is responsible if there is a self-driving vehicle (also known as an autonomous car).
Insurance and legal professionals are still unfamiliar with self-driving cars. Depending on the accident circumstances, liability could be assigned to the car’s manufacturer, the software developer, or the person who activated its autopilot mode. It is not always easy to get compensation for personal injuries. It is essential to consult an attorney when you are uncertain.
Self-Driving Cars Aren’t Driverless
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most car accidents are caused by human error. To make drivers safer, car companies have developed driver-assistance technology. These technologies have become standard, including cruise control, emergency brake systems, backup cameras, blind-spot detection, and lane assistance.
This automation is further advanced by self-driving vehicles. Engineers want vehicles to be able to drive themselves without the need for a driver. However, self-driving cars are not driverless. While these cars can do most of the work, a driver or operator is still required. The driver can switch on the automatic driving feature but still can control it when needed.
The Society of Automotive Engineers defines levels of automation.
- Level 0: No automation. The driver does everything.
- Level 1: A driver receives minimal assistance, such as power brakes and steering.
- Level 2: Partially automated like cruise control might exist, but the driver still has control.
- Level 3: While the car can be operated without driver control, the driver must still pay attention to the road and be ready and able to take control of the vehicle.
- Level 4: The car can operate under certain conditions without the driver’s intervention. If they want, the driver can take over.
- Level 5: Fully automatic vehicles that operate without the need for a driver. You may not even need a gas pedal or a steering wheel.
In a July 2016 article, we mentioned a Business Insider headline predicting that there would be 10,000,000 self-driving vehicles on the roads by 2020. In 2019, just over 1,400 vehicles and trucks were being tested by around 80 companies. Nothing beyond a Level 3 vehicle has yet to be put on the roads. It has been more challenging than expected to figure out how to get vehicles to respond to different road situations.
Although self-driving cars are unlikely to be seen on American roads soon, many drivers will. You deserve compensation if you are unfortunate enough to be struck by one.
Establishing legal precedents for self-driving crashes
Delay in rolling out self-driving vehicles is one reason for the risk of them collapsing. There have been very few accidents involving autonomous vehicles. However, autonomous vehicles are not as safe or dangerous as regular cars compiled over many decades.
There is a possibility that someone could be injured. However, there are no precedents for how courts would handle a case involving self-driving cars. When writing our 2016 article, the cars were only approved by five states.
Twenty-nine states currently have legislation regarding self-driving cars. Illinois legislation allows autonomous vehicles to be on the roads, but Missouri currently has no laws. Even though they are legal in Illinois, it is unclear who can sue if an accident occurs.
Who is responsible for a self-driving car?
There are many similarities between seeking compensation for personal injuries sustained in an autonomous vehicle accident and a regular accident. The responsible party for causing the accident must pay damages to the injured pedestrian or driver. It’s not easy to determine who or what is responsible for an accident like a normal one.
A human operator. Every self-driving car on the road right now has a driver. They will be called operators, not drivers. While they let the car do most driving, they play a vital role. They must be alert and aware of all happenings to take back control of the vehicle in case of an emergency. They could be held responsible if the operator fails to pay attention or doesn’t take action to prevent an accident from happening. Similar variables could be applied to a typical accident. Was the operator reckless, or was it unavoidable and thus not their fault?
The vehicle manufacturer. Sometimes, things go wrong with the car. Mechanical issues or failing brakes can cause a crash. There is nothing that the driver can do to prevent this. In such cases, the victim might seek compensation from the automaker/manufacturer for the defective car part that caused it.
The technology developer. Self-driving cars use many different software and sensors than a normal car. If something goes wrong, the software developers and manufacturers of sensor systems may be held responsible. It is difficult to figure out how different systems can detect all eventualities on the road. This is why self-driving cars are slowly becoming a reality. If a ball from a child rolls onto the road, the autonomous vehicle will need to rely on complex data and algorithms to “see” it and steer accordingly. Human drivers will use their judgment and reflexes. A self-driving vehicle might make a split-second decision whether to hit the ball or swerve into traffic.
It might not be possible to identify who or what caused a collision with a self-driving car. Therefore, parties may attempt to use comparative negligence to defend themselves and blame all or part of the wreck on one another. No matter who was responsible for an accident, someone injured should be fully compensated.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you if you have been injured in any vehicle accident.