Self-Driving Cars And Accidents: What You Need To Know

Are humans simply bad at following directions? Or, should car manufacturers like Tesla or Waymo know that human beings are going to hear the words "full self-driving capable car" and assume that they can trust their lives to their car's computer?

Essentially, that's at least part of the argument behind the latest lawsuit to be leveled against a company that sells self-driving cars after another fatal car wreck featuring one of the company's automated vehicles. The victim's family says that the company hypes the capabilities of its car too much -- giving drivers too much confidence in their vehicle's ability to steer without their help.

Given the increasing use of "smart" technology in today's cars, people are increasingly unsure who to hold responsible for accidents. Here are some things you need to know.

1. If you're in an accident with a self-driving car, who is responsible?

Generally speaking, if your vehicle gets hit by a self-driving car, you handle the situation just like you would any other car accident. The presumption is that the driver who was behind the wheel of the car that hit you caused the accident, but it may take some real investigation to determine if the human driver or the car's manufacturer is really at fault for the wreck.

2. How can the manufacturer be held liable for driver mistakes?

When manufacturers build a product, they bear a certain amount of responsibility for making sure that their product adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Designed in a way that doesn't pose an unreasonable risk to consumers
  • Manufactured correctly and without defects that put consumers in unexpected danger
  • Marketed in a way that properly warns consumers of known dangers and has sufficient instructions and clear safety warnings

For example, in the latest self-driving car accident, the manufacturer claims that there's evidence that the driver had his hands off the wheel immediately after turning on autopilot. However, drivers have reported that cars of that type don't always register it when their hands are on the wheel and that the company constantly gives consumers the impression that the car's self-driving capabilities are more advanced than they really are.

3. What's the advantage of holding the manufacturer responsible for a wreck?

In some cases -- like the one mentioned above -- the victim of an accident involving an automatic car is killed. The limits of most private insurance policies aren't enough to fully compensate the victim's survivors for the loss of their parent, spouse, or child. The manufacturer, however, has many more resources available. 

If you've got questions about how to hold a car manufacturer liable for a self-driving car accident, talk to a personal injury attorney today.