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Is a Driver Responsible for a Self-Driving Car's Accident?

From the moment autonomous cars were first conceived, lawyers and lawmakers alike were wondering, “Who is going to be responsible if one of those things crashes itself?” Months after a self-driving Tesla was in a car accident in Florida that resulted in its driver’s death, the answer is not any clearer. But not for a lack of trying to figure it out.

Blaming a person entirely for the behavior and “decisions” of their autonomous car seems out of the question. If they are sold a product that is marketed as something that can drive itself safely from A to B, they should reasonably expect it to do so without incident. At that point, a collision would be less of a car accident case and more of a product liability lawsuit.

Should Car Manufacturers Be Entirely to Blame?

Pointing a finger at the manufacturer of an autonomous car that goes haywire seems like the obvious solution, but also the right one, to some extent. Lawyers are speculating that as self-driving cars become more common, more defendants in lawsuits surrounding them will appear. For example, Ford might not be found responsible for a self-driving car crash but the team of computer engineers who programmed the car’s algorithms might be.

Although, car manufacturers do not seem to be completely afraid of liability for self-driving cars as it is. Google, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz so far have all vowed to take total liability for any crashes proven to be the direct result of an autonomous car’s error.

Automaker confidence seems to stem from two things:

  1. Self-driving cars are already far less likely to cause an accident than a human, so the number of crashes each year should be a sliver of a fraction of the millions of collisions seen across the globe annually.
  2. Autonomous driving technology is still advancing, so, in theory, the odds of a self-driving car causes a collision should drop year over year.

Taking the word of a car manufacturer is not exactly the best advice, however. The caveat of their promise to accept liability is that they will do so when it is clear that the self-driving car is actually to blame. This opens up a huge window for them to challenge the claims of injured drivers and refuse to give any payout.

If you have been hurt by an autonomous car, or an “old-fashioned” motorist who was controlling their vehicle manually, you can turn to King Law. Call (585) 286-5124 to talk to the firm’s Rochester car accident lawyer and learn your legal options during a free consultation.