Self-driving cars have become a reality.
Google is testing them in California and Arizona. Baidu recently announced its plan to bring them to the masses in as few as five years. And now lawmakers and lawyers are wrestling with the legal implications they’ll be delivering.
Among the questions needing to be answered, who is responsible when a self-driving car crashes?
The answer isn’t clear.
When a crash occurs involving a vehicle driven by a human, it’s typically pretty easy to determine who is a fault. But if a computer crashes and a self-driving vehicle rear ends another vehicle, there could be a whole host of defendants.
Computer programmers, their employers, mapping companies and even states allowing self-driving cars on their roads could be held responsible for crashes.
Owners of the vehicle could also find themselves held liable for crashes. In fact, the way many laws are currently written, that’s the most likely scenario. In Nevada, if you loan your car to a friend or family member, their crash could become your problem.
Sure, they are generally covered by your insurance–but it’s still your insurance.
The bottom line is, you could find yourself in trouble for a crash you were powerless to prevent. That’s why the first crash involving a self-driving car will be so important.
It will set precedent for any forthcoming cases. It’s likely the automobile’s owner will be held responsible initially. It’s also highly likely the manufacturer or technology firm that developed the automobile’s software will be sued–likely by the car’s owner.
And because existing law doesn’t account for self-driving cars, the entire case will likely be tied up in court for a while. That’s the bad news. The good news is it will likely force lawmakers to address the issue. In fact, this is already happening on some levels.
Late last year, California lawmakers proposed rules for driverless vehicles, requiring that a human always be available and ready to take control of the car. This move by California lawmakers could provide some clarity about who is to blame for self-driving car accidents even though there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
The bottom line is, if you are involved in a crash or accident involving a driverless car, you’re still going to want to connect with an attorney.
If you’ve been injured in an automobile crash, connect with the auto accident injury attorneys Greenman, Goldberg, Raby and Martinez today. Download the free auto accident checklist and call 702-388-GGRM (4476) for a free consultation to ensure you and your rights are protected.