Self-Driving Cars: Who’s at Fault When There’s an Accident?

During a car crash, the driver responsible for the accident is the one who caused the accident and will be liable to pay compensation. However, what happens when the car is driving itself? The answer is not as obvious. As automobile technology advances and steps into the future, more people have begun to wonder who is at fault in a self-driving car accident—and the legal world has responded. Here is a look at this new technology and how it may impact drivers on the roads, streets and highways.

An Overview of Self-Driving Cars

Although driverless cars are a relatively recent innovation, some vehicle automations have already been around for quite some time. Driver assist systems like cruise control, emergency braking, and lane assistance technology—to name a few—are innovations included in many vehicles. Self-driving cars plan to take automation to the next level by giving vehicles full control over the driving experience. However, we are not yet at the point of having fully autonomous vehicles on the road.

While cars have become more automated, the driver is still in charge and is needed to keep their eyes on the road at all time. The Society of Automotive Engineers outlines each level of automation, with 0 having none and 5 having complete control without the driver. Currently, there are no cars over level 3 on the road, which means that the driver is necessary and must pay attention and be in control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. Accidents, including serious accidents, involving self-driving cars have been documented.

Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

So, who is at fault in a self-driving car accident? Many Americans have begun to ask this question as semi-autonomous vehicles begin to roll out. In fact, a large percentage of people want to know who would be held responsible for a crash before they even start using a self-driving car. While the regulations are still being drafted, subject to change as more data is gathered, and vary by state, there are some general factors that determine who is at fault.

Tech Developer

You can’t file a lawsuit against a car—but a potentially responsible party would be the technology company that created its self-driving technology. In place of human judgment and reactions, automatic cars rely on algorithms for decision-making. If there is an algorithmic failure or glitch in their system, it can result in a fatal crash. Furthermore, software malfunctions might fail to warn drivers of the potential danger that prevents them from responding in time. In these circumstances, the developer of the automation tech could be at fault.

Car Manufacturer

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of who is at fault in a self-driving car accident, but rather what company manufactured and produced the vehicle involved in the crash. Failing brakes, mechanical problems, and defective designs can result in accidents even if the driver acts and makes appropriate reactions. When a scenario like this occurs, the automaker could be held responsible.

The Driver

Who is at fault in a self-driving car accident? Depending on the circumstances, it could be the driver. As mentioned previously, self-driving cars currently have someone behind the wheel. They have the duty to operate the vehicle safely, so others on the road aren’t put at risk of an accident. Unfortunately, the convenience of automated cars can create a false sense of security that could result in negligence on the part of the driver.

Even if self-driving cars do the majority of the work, the drivers behind the wheel still need to pay careful attention. For example, when something unexpected happens, the driver may need to take over full control of the vehicle. If a driver does not appropriately act when necessary under the circumstances and an accident occurs, it could be considered negligence on their part, and they could be held accountable for human error resulting in the crash.

It does not matter what type of vehicle is involved in a crash. Liever Hyman & Potter is always available when you require a car accident attorney in Reading, Pennsylvania, or a truck accident lawyer or motorcycle accident attorney. Our law firm handles all other personal injury matters and can provide assistance when you need a medical malpractice lawyer in PA.

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