What Happens if You Crash in a Self-Driving Car?

This decade along with the next will finally see average Joe wave goodbye to his wife and kids from 30 feet in the air in a car that flies itself. But what happens if Joe suffers an accident of some kind. Can you sue a robo-car?

Is self-driving car safe?

Machines are better drivers than humans because they do not drink, text, or hesitate. Some blogs even predict that in the future, people will not have any need for driver licenses.

Obviously, the law has had to keep pace with these tech developments. Autonomous driving within the next few years and VTOLs will probably be the next step. Safety standards for cars have come a long way since the days of The Dukes of Hazard.

What Is Considered a Self-driving Car?

The answer might surprise you. Adaptive cruise control is technically enough for a car to be considered Level 1 Autonomous. There are 5 Levels of Autonomy. In the USA, Level 3 Autonomous is legal in every state.

Level 0 Autonomy is the car that is probably sitting in your driveway right now. Level 1 includes cruise control, but not self-braking. A driver still needs to be in the front seat all the way up to Level 3. Level 5 means the vehicle is prepared for any situation imaginable.

If you are an early adopter who is considering looking into the technology for a possible expansion of your fleet, it could be in your best interest to spend some time looking into how to find the most relevant legal team.

Who is Responsible—Automaker, Person Behind the Wheel, or Sensor Manufacturer?

If you have been involved in a crash where the other person’s car was driving itself, you may still have to prove negligence like normal.

A survey by Business Insider concludes that 81 out of the 88 (non-fatal) accidents involving self-driving vehicles in California since 2014 were the fault of humans and not the fault of the car itself. Only one accident was deemed a technical error.

In a nutshell, negligence just means that the accused driver has been behaving in a thoughtless or careless manner which has caused harm to another person.

In the odd case that the car was actually at fault, defective manufacturing might be your strongest case against the car manufacturer. “The car manufacturer must use consistent practices and materials in production to ensure consistent quality.” says a Miami car accident lawyer from SteinLaw.

To prove this, your lawyer may have to invoke the relative car safety. This metric is gauged by fatality per 100 million miles. Currently each individual car manufacturer accounts for about 10 million miles of data—meaning it would be a tough case to make.

Nevertheless, there have been five level 2 autonomous fatalities. Four in the USA and one in China. There was also one Level 3 Autonomous fatality in Arizona.

Rules Vary By State

Currently, Level 3 Autonomy is legal in all 50 states. The future of Level 4 & 5 Autonomy is still undetermined in the states. Generally though, policy varies quite a bit by state. The most accepting states for self-driving cars are Arizona and Florida. This is ironic, since those are the two states that have suffered the most notorious self-driving fatalities. Three of the six reported self-driving fatalities worldwide have been in Florida.

Tesla self-driving function is currently Level 2 autonomous, but Elon Musk said in an interview that by mid 2020, Teslas should be able to sustain full level 5 automation. Most manufacturers that offer self-driving cars, like Tesla and BMW, have software that gets classed as Level 2 Autonomy. Tesla and Uber also plan on rolling out AV taxis.

To learn more, you will probably have to look into the policy of the specific state. Florida, California, and Arizona are the only three states where it is currently legal for nobody to be behind the wheel of the vehicle.

Expect reunions with your grandkids to look like a scene from The Jetsons.


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