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Self-driving cars are here and it is widely predicted that they will be the transportation of the future. Several companies have received permits to test their self-driving vehicles on public roads, and the results thus far have been promising but not without incident. An Uber self-driving car was involved in an accident in Arizona this year although the other driver was cited for failure to yield. The driver of a Tesla self-driving car was killed last year in Florida when it collided with a truck, and one of Google’s self-driving cars crashed with a bus last year as it attempted to maneuver around an obstacle.
If they function as intended and as promised, self-driving cars have the potential to make our roads much safer. Self-driving cars could potentially eliminate distracted driving and drunk driving which are two of the major causes of car wrecks today. A computer does not suffer decreased reaction time when it is adjusting the radio. The “driver” can now talk or send texts on their phone, fiddle with the radio, surf social media, put on make-up, or eat their lunch without risking a deadly auto accident. Unlike people, cars do not drink alcohol or take drugs before driving down the road. The elimination of drunk drivers alone may save tens of thousands of lives each year.
This remains to be seen. Theoretically, the driver of the car cannot be negligent and could not be held responsible for a self-driving car crash unless they are manually operating the car or otherwise making decisions that lead to an accident. Some manufacturers have stated that they will not accept liability for their vehicles, and others have stated that they will accept responsibility for any accidents caused by their vehicles.
One possible outcome is that the manufacturer of the self-driving car that is involved in the accident will be liable under product liability law for manufacturing or design defects that lead to auto accidents. Over time, this should force the manufacturers to improve their designs as self-driving car accidents become more and more uncommon. Another possibility is that, once the nation has shifted to self-driving vehicles, we may move to a no-fault liability system where each driver’s insurance compensates their own insured for any losses from a self-driving car accident.
It is impossible to predict what the future holds for the future of auto accident liability, but the prospect of self-driving cars drastically reducing the number of injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways is hopeful and exciting.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us at 843-353-3449 or fill out our contact form today.
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