Despite all the hype, fully self-driving cars are not yet commercially available to the public. In limited geographical areas, individuals can sometimes be passengers in these vehicles. However, mastering the technology behind these cars has proven highly costly, and a wider rollout has taken much longer than expected.
Even Tesla, who offers an “Autopilot” feature and boasts that their cars can run by themselves, admits (sometimes) that there needs to be a human at the controls. This is partly because of the accidents that continue to occur when people allow the car to do what it promises to do: drive itself. Clearly, safety continues to be a significant concern. (See our November 7, 2019 post, “As Cars Grow More Autonomous, Safety Remains an Issue.”)
In April of this year, a Tesla vehicle was involved in a fatal crash that killed two people. Just before the drive, eyewitnesses said that the parties left to test-drive the vehicle without a driver utilizing Tesla’s Autopilot feature.
Tesla claims the accident occurred because there was no one behind the wheel. The company says they include a warning on when and where to use this feature in the vehicle’s manual. They also state on their website that active driver supervision is required, yet they continue to advertise the Autopilot feature as autonomous.
So, before we examine who’s at fault if you’re involved in an accident with a driverless car, it’s important to understand the complexities surrounding self-driving cars, from what defines the term to current regulations and the latest developments in the industry.
The terms “self-driving,” “driverless,” and “autonomous” are often used synonymously, although there are important distinctions.
Self-driving vehicles have been assigned levels of autonomy by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Most cars on the road today operate at Level 1, where there are some autonomous functions such as cruise control or Lane-Keep Assist. It’s worth noting that the NHTSA recently updated their descriptions of Levels 4 and 5 to include a greater degree of autonomy and lack of human intervention.
There has been some reluctance for people to grab onto the self-driving concept. However, according to forecaster Scott Hardman, as driving becomes more automated, people will drive more, based on his interviews with 35 Tesla BEV with Autopilot owners. Those interviewed perceived less stress and increased comfort associated with partial automation.
In the meantime, technology is moving forward amidst hope, some trepidation, and, most of all, confusion.
Exact statistics about driverless vehicles are difficult to get due to the lack of mandates on reporting accidents and the lack of industry-wide standards, where confusion abounds. Nevertheless, here are some important numbers worth considering:
Many experts say driverless cars are safer than those driven entirely by human operators. Regardless, accidents have occurred and will continue to take place for many reasons. But if you’re involved in a driverless car accident, who’s at fault? Do you have any recourse?
The blame, or cause, of the accident, can be murky at best and may rest with more than one party. That’s why it is essential to have a professional and experienced personal injury attorney on your side who specializes in these types of accidents. He or she must be able to accurately assess the situation, interpret the data, and consult the right experts to support your case and present it properly to the court.
If you’re involved in an accident of any kind, you’ll want to seek medical help as soon as possible. Often physical, mental, or emotional trauma doesn’t show up right away, even if you think you weren’t hurt.
Be sure to:
In addition to the above, if you or someone you love is involved in an accident with a driverless car, contact an attorney at Clifford Law Offices. We can give you specific, expert advice based on your individual circumstances. Accidents involving driverless cars can be highly complicated, and you don’t want to go it alone.
Contact us online today for a free, confidential case consultation. You can also call us toll-free at (800) 899-0410 or (312) 899-9090 in the Chicago area.