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Who Is at Fault in a Driverless Car Accident?

By Grant Law Office on June 9, 2021

Computer screen in a self-driving car.

Self-driving cars are changing things on U.S. roadways. As autonomous vehicle technology continues to advance and driverless cars become more popular, liability concerns with vehicle automation are becoming more of an issue.

Do Self-Driving Cars Cause Crashes?

Driverless cars have been known to malfunction. For example, in a recent incident involving a Tesla Model 3, the self-driving vehicle was on the verge of rear-ending a parked car. The driver intervened at the last second, narrowly avoiding a crash, as you can see in this YouTube video. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently conducted an investigation of nearly two dozen accidents involving Tesla vehicles in which autopilot was or may have been used, as reported by the New York Times.

In 2019 and 2020, Waymo driverless cars were involved in a total of 18 accidents, as reported on VentureBeat. These vehicles collided with pedestrians, bicyclists, other motorists, and objects. In addition, there were 29 incidents in which human drivers had to take control to avoid a possible crash.

Who Is Liable When Driverless Cars Malfunction?

The question is: Where does responsibility for accidents lie? If technology is driving the car, not the person behind the wheel, is that person liable when a collision occurs? Or is someone else liable, such as the manufacturer of the vehicle or the navigational cameras or some other key piece of equipment?

As it stands currently, despite the marketing hype, today’s self-driving cars are not yet completely autonomous driving systems. They are advanced driver-assistance systems that automate some elements of driving. Drivers are ultimately responsible for what happens when they are operating a motor vehicle, even when a substantial portion of the job is handled by automation. With completely autonomous, truly driverless cars, liability is bound to shift from drivers to software designers and vehicle manufacturers. This is likely to be established through case law rather than legislation.

When Are Auto Manufacturers and Software Designers Liable?

Product liability legal precedents should motivate designers and manufacturers of autonomous vehicle technology to ensure their vehicles are safe. In the past, defective auto parts, such as batteries, airbags, or tires, have given rise to many product liability claims against manufactures and other parties in the chain of distribution. With driverless cars, designers, manufacturers, and distributors may be held liable for defects in much more complicated systems involving software, radar, sensors, on-board cameras, and infrared pulse light detection and ranging systems.

What Should You Do After a Driverless Car Accident?

If you have been injured in an accident for which a driverless car is at fault, your best course of action is to consult with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the specific circumstances, the driver of the autonomous vehicle may be liable for your injuries. If the crash was caused by a defect in the self-driving system, you may have a product liability claim against a designer, software engineer, vehicle manufacturer, or another party.

Why Choose Us?

At Grant Law Office, we have been effectively representing injured people in Georgia for more than 30 years. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers can:

  • Thoroughly investigate your accident to determine fault and liability
  • Collect and preserve evidence to support your claim
  • Build a strong case based on the facts
  • Assess the full extent of your losses
  • Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Argue your case in front of a jury if necessary

We will personally handle your case from start to finish, and our case results speak for themselves. Call us at (404) 995-3955 or toll-free at (866) 249-5513 to schedule a free consultation with no time limit.

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Posted in: Auto Accidents

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