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Who is Responsible in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Self-driving and autonomous cars are becoming more mainstream on the roadways. However, what happens if one of these vehicles is involved in an accident? Inevitably, there will be discussions about liability. Is the driver responsible for an accident that occurs when a self-driving or autonomous feature is engaged? Here, we want to examine questions of liability that will arise after an accident involving a self-driving vehicle.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Vehicles?

When you hear someone refer to self-driving cars, you may think of a science fiction episode. The reality is that we are almost to the point where self-driving cars will be on our roadways on a regular basis. Right now, however, cars that drive themselves are only in the testing phases with many companies. There are areas throughout this country where self-driving cars do cross the roadways regularly, but they do so under fairly controlled environments.

Once self-driving cars become mainstream, meaning they are available to consumers and are on the roadways without a second thought, issues of liability will most certainly arise. The law currently has not caught up with who will be responsible for accidents involving self-driving cars, particularly if the vehicle is in a complete autopilot mode. State and federal lawmakers will likely have to draft new insurance laws to address this situation. Right now, if an accident involving a self-driving vehicle occurs, a vehicle being tested by a company, then the company responsible for the testing will be held responsible for any injuries or property damage.

Moving forward, the owner of the self-driving vehicle may be held responsible, but we will have to see where the laws fall on the issue.

Autonomous driving features are present in every new vehicle, though at varying levels. At the lowest level of vehicle automation, we see steering assistance, adaptive cruise control features, as well as the ability of the vehicle to brake or accelerate on its own.

There are more advanced autonomous features for vehicles on the roadway as well. This includes vehicles that can park themselves and even unpark themselves and drive to the front of the store to meet the owner of the vehicle. Some vehicles, notably Teslas, are programmed with a sort of autopilot mode to stay inside the lanes of a highway with virtually no input from the driver. These vehicles use various types of artificial intelligence and computer systems.

However, regardless of the level of automation in a vehicle on the roadway today, every manufacturer requires a driver to be in the driver’s seat and have the ability to take over driving actions anytime there is a hazard approaching. The driver must remain in complete control of the vehicle or be able to take complete control of the vehicle at any time.

If a crash occurs while an autonomous driving feature is engaged, the vehicle accident will be investigated just like any other crash on the roadway. If the driver who had the autonomous feature engaged is found to be at fault, then their insurance carrier will be responsible for paying compensation to other parties involved.

If you or somebody you love has been injured in an accident involving an autonomous or self-driving vehicle, reach out to a Newnan accident attorney for help today. These cases can be complicated, and it is crucial to let an attorney conduct an investigation and determine liability so you can recover the compensation you need.