Self-Driving Vehicle Accident Lawyers

personal injury law implications from self-driving vehicle accidents

If you are injured in a self-driving vehicle accident, you will need a self-driving vehicle accident lawyer. With self-driving vehicles now being tested on public roads, new questions have popped up about liability in a self-driving vehicle accident. There have been several situations already in which a self-driving vehicle was involved in a crash. These accidents carry potential liability for the vehicle manufacturers, vehicle operators, shipping companies, rideshare companies and insurance carriers.  

Self-driving vehicle accident lawyers are knowledgeable of the regulations needed to operate self-driving vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration breaks down driver-assisted technology into six levels of autonomy. Autonomous, or self-driving, cars are designed for travel without assistance of a human driver. At this level of automation, the vehicle uses artificial intelligence and other sensing technology to replace human operation of the vehicle. NHTSA classifies this as a Level 5 automation. 

Multiple companies, including Google’s platform named Waymo, Tesla, Aurora Innovation, TuSimple and Embark, are actively testing their self-driving vehicle technology. See the current list of authorized testing companies in Pennsylvania. Accidents that occur during the testing phase are the responsibility of the company conducting the test. As these vehicles become available for public purchase, it is likely that at-fault drivers and their insurance companies would be liable for accidents. However, if a product defect within the technology caused the crash, the company may still have liability for the incident.  

Are Self Driving Vehicles Safer?

Current data from the National Law Review supports that the rate of self-driving car accidents is higher than regular vehicles. However, fewer severe injuries were reported from self-driving car accidents than other car accidents. Over 62% of accidents involved the autonomous vehicle getting rear-ended by a human-operated vehicle. It is anticipated that these vehicles will become safer than human operated vehicles as self-driving technology improves.  

Risks of Self Driving Cars

Despite advances in technology, vehicles equipped with driving assistance, including semi-autonomous vehicles, still may have technological flaws and imperfections. For example, a AAA study in 2020 demonstrated that vehicles with active driving assist systems experienced an issue every 8 miles. These technology imperfections can result in real-world accidents that can be both dangerous and deadly. In 2016, a Tesla was involved in a crash in which the autopilot feature failed to detect a white 18-wheeler truck against the background of a brightly lit sky. In another case, an error in Tesla’s autopilot navigational feature resulted in a crash fatality. Sadly, the operator had pursued repair for the defective navigational system several times from the dealer. Increasing system complexity makes failures inevitable; warnings and other safety guards cannot offset these failures completely.

While technology can be helpful in many situations, the replacement of human decision-making during complex, split second decisions is nearly impossible to replicate. Real life situations can include complicated variables, such as rapidly changing weather conditions and road surface variations, that may require specific actions that vary greatly on these unique circumstances.

Safety advocates express concern that the rapid deployment of self-driving cars has skipped crucial safety steps. Manufacturers were and operators were only recently required to report certain crash data involving automated driving systems. However, many important details are still missing, as companies are allowed to withhold certain details that they consider confidential business information. Based on the limited data available, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published findings in June 2022 of nearly 400 crashes over a 10-month period that involved cars using advanced driver assist technology. Of the incidents analyzed, 6 fatal injuries occurred, and 5 other individuals sustained serious injuries. Specifically, Teslas operated with Autopilot mode were singled as having the most crashes, being associated with 273 crashes, with 5 of them involving fatalities.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has attempted to deploy self-driving vehicles through amendments of rules written for cars with live drivers. However, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles have unique characteristics that may require a different approach to deployment to promote consumer safety.

Self-Driving Car Fires

There have been multiple examples of extreme fires caused by the highly combustible lithium-ion (LI) batteries in semi-autonomous vehicles. These fires reach temperatures of 2,000 Celsius and require over 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish. Collisions that damage a lithium-ion battery hold a risk of explosions of toxic gases and the release of projectiles that can place accident victims and first responders in grave danger. A self-driving vehicle lawyer recognizes that as semi-autonomous vehicles on the roadway increase, they incidents will continue to grow.

Who can be Held Liable for Semiautonomous Vehicles? 

Manufacturers such as Tesla currently have semi-autonomous vehicles on roadways. These vehicles typically employ advanced technology in their steering and braking systems. The vehicle operator manual requires that the driver remain at full attention in the driver seat while the vehicle operates in the autopilot mode 

Because these vehicles are not intended to be fully autonomous, but aimed for use by a fully attentive driver, an accident will likely be the responsibility of the at-fault driver during a collision or there may be joint liability apportioned between the driver and manufacturer. The vehicle manufacturer may still be liable if a defect in the vehicle or representations made to drivers its parts is found to have played a part in causing the collision. 

Contact our Self-driving Driving Vehicle Accident PA Lawyers for a Free Consultation 

Self-driving vehicle accident lawyers anticipate that collisions with autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will rise with the incorporation of these technologies on our roads and highways. Proving liability in a semi-autonomous or self-driving car accident will undoubtedly be a challenging task needing the skills of an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney. The vehicle accident lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm can help accident victims by fighting to recover the maximum financial damages possible. Car accident victims turn to the Wieand Law Firm based on our past successes and the level of individualized attention we offer to our clients.  

When you contact one of the self-driving vehicle accident lawyers in our firm, we start with a free consultation to learn more about the circumstances surrounding your accident. Although we have litigated many car accident claims, we know that no two are alike. Once we have a full understanding of the incident, our team will strategize a legal approach to get the best possible compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 215-666-7777 or send us a message to speak directly with an attorney.   

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