Recently, in California, a car was pulled over for traveling just 24 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. CNN reported that traffic was backing up behind the vehicle and it was impeding traffic. When the officer approached the slow moving vehicle, he realized the car was a Google Autonomous vehicle. In an online post, Google said it capped the speed of its prototype cars at 25 miles an hour for safety reasons and so the vehicles would seem approachable and friendly.
While the car wasn’t ticketed because it was not committing any violation, the traffic stop raises interesting questions. When a car is driving itself, who is responsible if the car does break a law? More importantly, as a personal injury attorney, I want to know who is responsible if the driverless car causes an accident?
Who is Responsible for Accidents Caused by Driverless Cars?
In general, California fault laws make motorists responsible for car accidents they cause. Motorists who cause a collision by driving carelessly or breaking laws can be held liable for losses of injured crash victims. But when a car that is driving itself causes an accident, who will be accountable to victims?
The BBC reports that many of the car companies currently producing driverless cars have claimed they will take responsibility if the cars cause an accident. In 2015, the president of Volvo Cars gave a speech in Washington, DC warning that while the U.S. is leading in the development of autonomous driving vehicles, federal guidelines for testing and certification of the cars could slow down progress.
To try to expedite regulation and remove uncertainty, Volvo said it would take full responsibility and accept liability for any accident caused by a flaw in its car’s design. However, if a customer misuses the autonomous vehicle technology in an inappropriate way, or if a third party vehicle causes the crash to occur, then Volvo would not be liable. Under those circumstances, the person who misused the technology, or the driver of the third party vehicle, would be liable.
Google has made similar statements about accepting responsibility in situations where an accident occurs because the autonomous car has a defect or malfunctions. One director of autonomous systems at Sheffield University told the BBC that Volvo’s statement about accepting liability could “pave the way for global legislation, and if other manufacturers take similar undertakings then legislation could be made simple.”
Despite these promises, it is not yet clear what will happen when driverless car crash cases started going to court. The car manufacturers could potentially be held liable for crashes caused by car defects under existing product liability rules, as they are now for defects in traditional cars that cause injury. However, product liability cases are generally more complex and take longer to settle or litigate than car accident cases. There will be questions raised in each case about what the actual problem was, and the technologies in autonomously operated cars could make it more difficult to prove if the car was at fault.
Until cases start coming before the courts it is difficult to know how these cases will play out in the real world. My fear is that injured accident victims will have to fight harder and wait longer to recover their damages.
How Can a Long Beach Personal Injury Attorney Help?
Your Injuries are Personal to Me
If you are involved in a crash with a driverless car or in any accident caused by a vehicle defect, you need to get help from a Long Beach personal injury attorney. Your injuries are personal to me, so I handle every aspect of your case until your claim is resolved.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation to speak with me and learn how I can help if you’ve suffered a car accident injury.
You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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