Self-Driving Car Accidents
Getting in a motor vehicle collision is stressful enough – but what happens if you’re in a car accident with a self-driving vehicle? The advent of new technology is exciting – but when disaster strikes, it can pose new, unforeseen challenges. Indeed, some experts predict that there will be 10 million self-driving vehicles on US roads by 2020 – that’s a lot of potential for collisions in which the responsible party is unknown. In addition, there are serious questions about how the insurance claim process will be handled and how legal claims will be processed through the courts.
Navigating those uncharted legal waters is going be tough, but the Walkup law office in San Francisco is here to help. If you were in a car accident with a self-driving vehicle, you will need an attorney who understands this dynamic and changing area of law and who can handle all of the complex issues that arise from these types of collisions. At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, our attorneys have a deep understanding of automobile design and product liability claims and how those issues will impact vehicle injuring collision cases with the introduction of vehicular automation.
Defining Self-Driving Vehicles
In the last 12 months, automakers and would-be automakers have been racing towards fully autonomous vehicles. These features include:
- Self-park steering – a feature that uses sensors and your steering wheel to help you park in awkward spaces.
- Self-park acceleration & brakes – a continuation of self-park technology allows the vehicle to alter its speed when parking.
- Adaptive cruise control – cruise control that slows down and speeds up according to the flow of traffic.
- Lane-centering steering – the next step of lane assist, this feature allows the vehicle to use sensors to detect when you’re drifting into another lane, and automatically steers back to the center of the lane.
The US Department of Transportation has adopted SAE International’s standards for automation. The global association of more than 128,000 engineers has defined six distinct levels of driving automation, from no automation to full automation. The levels are:
- Level 0 – No Automation: full-time operation by a human driver.
- Level 1 – Driver Assistance: one driver assistance system that aids in ability, but the human driver is expected to handle the majority of tasks.
- Level 2 – Partial Automation: more than one driver assistance system that works in harmony to accomplish a driving task, such as steering and speed control, while the human driver controls the other driving elements.
- Level 3 – Conditional Automation: an automated driving system that allows autonomous operation of the vehicle, with the ability of a human driver to intervene if necessary.
- Level 4 – High Automation: an automated driving system that allows full autonomous operation of a vehicle, including navigating situations where a human driver would normally need to intervene.
- Level 5 – Full Automation: an automated driving system that handles all aspects of driving, with no need for human driver management.
Who’s at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident?
Determining responsibility in a car accident has always been a matter of state law – but when the car is now driving itself, where do we put the blame? This is uncharted territory for all auto insurance providers and the lawyers who represent innocent victims injured in car wrecks. Here’s where we think liability will most likely land in most collisions:
- The human behind the steering wheel. The vehicle may have been in autonomous mode, but ultimately, drivers and vehicle owners will be held responsible for driving mistakes. Data from Google’s self-driving tests shows that in accidents where cars are in autonomous mode, most people disengage their automation and try to regain control of the vehicle themselves, thinking they have the know-how to avoid an accident.
- The manufacturer. As autonomous vehicles become more prevalent, the liability for these vehicles is going to shift from drivers to manufacturers, whenever there are technology failures (hardware and software) in fully self-driving, fully autonomous modes.
Once the claims process shifts more toward major corporations and large auto manufacturers, the road to recovery and proper compensation for faultless victims will become more complicated and considerably more expensive – and the need for a car accident attorney familiar with the nuances of self-driving car litigation will become more important than ever.
Experienced and Educated in Car Accidents
At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, & Schoenberger, we have a 60-year history of representing injured plaintiffs in auto litigation and product liability litigation. We have a skilled legal team that is well-versed on the current laws, the evolving federal and state developments regarding self-driving car accidents. This knowledge is invaluable for recovering money in the case of a serious personal injury-producing car accident. Our team of auto injury lawyers has amassed over half a decade of experience, successfully obtaining compensation for those injured in car accidents, and finding closure for those whose quality of life may have suffered.
For a free consultation call us at (415) 889-2919 today.