On May 7th, 2016, a 40-year-old man named Joshua Brown became the first person killed
in any self-driving car in autonomous mode.
The Tesla Model S had been on self-driving (autopilot) mode when it failed
to apply the brakes when a tractor-trailer made a left in front Brown’s
Tesla. According to government records, the car’s cameras failed
to distinguish the white side of the truck from a brightly lit sky and
didn’t automatically activate its brakes.
car accident like this happens, you may be wondering who is held liable. Would it be
the driver? Or the manufacturer?
Determining Liability in a Self-Driving Vehicle Crash
Based on a report by the RAND Corporation, many think that accidents involving
self-driving cars are considered in the realm of product liability instead
of personal liability.
It may be inevitable that if a collision occurred between an autonomous
car and another vehicle, the blame might shift to the manufacturer to
prove that their vehicle did not cause the crash, but rather the driver
of the other vehicle did so. Volvo and some other auto manufacturers of
self-driving vehicles have already announced that they will provide compensation
for all injuries and property damage caused by their autonomous cars.
If liability claims are to shift, auto insurance policies need to be adjusted.
Instead of relying on a driver’s statements, insurance companies
may have to start considering information provided by electronic control
modules in autonomous vehicles. However, those injured in these car accidents
must prove the extent of the damages they have suffered, so negotiating
with insurance adjusters may be even more complicated.
Could an Owner/Driver of an Autonomous Car Still Be Held Liable?
Absolutely. For example, if the driver decides to manually operate the
vehicle by taking it off autopilot, the driver may be held liable if a
collision occurs. In addition, if a vehicle needs maintenance or servicing
in order to perform at peak efficiency, and the owner of the vehicle failed
to make the appropriate fixes or repairs, then the owner could be held liable.
If you are involved in a crash in Austin, TX and liability is an issue,
contact Komie & Morrow, LLP and request a
free consultation today.