The future is here. In February 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared that Google’s self-driving cars can legally operate on United States roadways. Previously, there was some debate about whether the cars’ artificial intelligence systems could qualify as legal drivers. But being legal does not necessarily mean they are safe. Because they are so new, there are few published statistics about collisions involving driverless cars.
Today’s motorists have many questions about these new vehicles, like whether they are safe for passengers, whether they are more or less likely to collide with other vehicles on the roadway, who is responsible if a driverless car is involved in an accident with another vehicle, and which laws exist to regulate their use and protect others from potential issues involving them. New technology always brings new concerns and questions about the impact it will have on our lives. As we move further into the highways of the future, keep yourself informed about the laws that apply to driverless vehicles. If you are involved in a car accident with one, you might need to approach your personal injury claim differently than you would if your accident involved a car with a human driver.
Who is Responsible for a Driverless Car Accident?
You know who is responsible in a traditional car accident: the driver whose negligence caused the two or more vehicles to collide with each other. But can a computer be deemed to be negligent and even if it can, can it be held liable?
Some manufacturers of driverless cars, including Google and Volvo, have stated that they may be held fully liable for collisions involving their driverless cars. This is because if an accident is due to a flaw in the vehicle’s design or programming, it is the fault of the manufacturer. That said, a representative of Volvo also told the BBC that if a third party deliberately causes an accident involving a Volvo driverless vehicle, the company cannot be held responsible. Although there are no laws in place assigning liability in car accidents involving these cars yet, companies generally maintain that a driver cannot be held liable if he or she was not actually the one driving the car.
What is California Doing to Regulate Driverless Cars?
Google has been testing driverless cars in California for a few years now. In response to this, the California Department of Motor Vehicles proposed a law to require that all driverless cars have at least one licensed driver in the vehicle when the vehicle is in motion. Other requirements under this proposed legislation include requiring driverless vehicles to pass third party safety tests and manufacturers to comply with state safety certifications, a permit requirement and ongoing reporting requirements for manufacturers, and a requirement for manufacturers to disclose any information that is not necessary for the vehicle’s safe operation to the vehicles’ operators. Although some see this legislation as unnecessary government interference, others see it as necessary regulation to keep California drivers and pedestrians safe.
Should I Be Worried about Sharing the Road with Driverless Cars?
Although a few studies have found driverless cars to have a higher collision rate than traditionally driven vehicles, it is important to keep in mind that these findings are only based on a few years’ worth of study. One notable study comes from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, which found that driverless cars are involved in collisions approximately five times more frequently than cars driven by humans. Most of these accidents occurred when the cars were traveling at speeds of five miles per hour and lower, and most were rear-end collisions by human-driven vehicles. Google maintains that these collisions are largely due to human error, rather than issues with the artificial intelligence driving its cars.
As these driverless cars log more miles on the road, it is possible that updated studies can find them to be statistically less likely to be involved in accidents than other vehicles. They are also subject to rapidly-evolving technology, which will only make them safer as time passes. Practice defensive driving and avoid any actions that can put you at risk of being involved in a collision, such as using your cell phone while driving and driving above the speed limit. These practices will minimize your chance of colliding with any other vehicles on the road, whether they are manned by computers or by human beings.
Work with a San Diego Car Accident Attorney
No matter how the world around us continues to change, you have the right to protect your interests and seek monetary compensation for your damages suffered in a California car accident. To learn more about these rights and how you can protect them, work with an experienced San Diego motor vehicle accident attorney. Our team at Martinez & Schill LLP can help you with your personal injury claim by answering any questions you have and advocating for your interests through every step of the recovery process. Contact our firm today to discuss your case with us.