The future of automobile tech is here, and it is quite literally not stopping for anyone.
As self-driving cars have gained popularity across the globe – Bloomberg.org currently lists 53 major cities as testing autonomous vehicles – we have also seen an increase in driverless accidents. One of the hardest parts of adapting to this brave new world is figuring out who is at fault in self-driving car accidents.
Is the driver at fault? What about the manufacturer that produced the car? What about the technology company that designed the software the car uses? What about the other driver or car?
These questions are difficult to sort out and demand a full understanding of not only automobile law, but of rapidly advancing technology. Luckily, we have put together a guide to help you understand who is at fault in a self-driving car accident.
Levels of Automation
When someone says driverless car, we usually think of a completely self-driving vehicle. We usually think of the driver putting his or her feet up, watching a movie, and the car magically moving them from point A to B.
In reality, that is not the case at all.
All self-driving cars have different levels of automation. These are classified on a scale from zero to five, with zero being your standard vehicle and five being your futuristic, sci-fi supercar.
Most cars on the road today are either a one or two. A one is any car that has a single level of driver assistance. This could be cruise control or a side view mirror that alerts you when another vehicle is in your blind spot.
A two is any car that offers multiple forms of drive assistance at the same time but still requires the driver to take over in case of an emergency. This could be a car that slows down to avoid obstacles while making sure to stay in your lane.
Who is at Fault in a Self Driving Car Accident?
This is the million-dollar question. It also doesn’t have a clear answer. While there have been a handful of driverless vehicle accidents to date, there has not been an industry-wide acceptance of fault or negligence established.
This is troubling news indeed.
The crux of the problem establishing who is at fault in a self-driving car accident comes down to product liability law. Those rhetorical questions asked above – is the driver, the automobile manufacturer, the software company, or another entity entirely liable? – end up being much harder to answer.
Thankfully, product liability law has a long history and many precedents to build off. There’s negligence, design defects, and manufacturing defects to consider. We need to define these terms to understand who is at fault in an autonomous car accident.
Defining Some Legal Terms You Need to Know to Determine Fault
The three pillars – you can also call them theories – we need to define to determine fault are negligence, design defects, and manufacturing defects.
Negligence is when a manufacturer does not design their products to be safe or secure in reasonably foreseeable ways. What constitutes “reasonably foreseeable” varies and is often left to attorneys to define, but generally refers to patterned behavior.
So, for example, a self-driving car that has collision avoidance technology which works well in all weather conditions except for heavy rain may be considered negligent.
Design defects are, as the name suggests, flaws in the design of a product. This could be something as simple as blind spot indicator which gets “confused” when multiple vehicles are present in your car’s blind spots. It can be as complex as self-braking technology that doesn’t compensate for high wind speeds on steep inclines or declines.
Manufacturing defects are mistakes made in the creation or distribution chain. This might be an error in the software code of an autonomous car. It might be a distributor shipping cars that haven’t been fully tested.
Liability is determined based on which of these areas has caused the self-driving car accident. There is sometimes overlap between multiple areas. Design and manufacturing defects often go together, for example.
Considering all these factors is not an easy task. In fact, it makes determining fault in a self-driving car accident very difficult. Thankfully, there are attorneys like The Berman Law Group here to help.
We can navigate the complicated web of product liability law, personal injury law, contract law, and all other factors like professionals because we are professionals. Our experienced team of industry-leading attorneys brings decades of experience to the table.
Call us today if you’ve experienced a self-driving car accident. We will take care of the rest.