Every year, nearly 1.25 million Americans die in fatal motor vehicle accidents. Every day, an average of 3,287 motor vehicle deaths occur. Additionally, every day, 20-50 million people receive injuries or disabilities in motor vehicle accidents. Experts predict that motor vehicle traffic accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death in the United States by 2030. Many drivers cause motor vehicle accidents due to negligence, bad reaction times, driving while under the influence, and distracted driving. Could the increased use of self-driving cars decrease the number of car accidents?
Self-Driving Cars Could Eliminate Many of the Causes of Car Accidents
Self-driving cars may eliminate the many types of driver-errors that cause motor vehicle accidents. Self-driving cars do not become distracted by text messaging, talking on the phone, or distracted driving. Self-driving cars are machines that work in a systematic way that is not influenced by subjective thinking. Theoretically, self-driving cars can respond better to bad weather conditions such as fog, rain, snow, and sleet than humans.
The increased prevalence of self-driving cars will likely result in an overall decrease in motor vehicle accidents. However, the issue of who is liable for accidents involving self-driving is still unclear. Motor vehicle manufacturers will try to deny liability for motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, drivers of self-driving cars may not use the self-driving function. Many individuals do not trust the artificial intelligence used by self-driving cars. Self-driving cars still come with steering wheels and brake pedals so consumers can drive them manually if they choose to do so.
Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars are Not Always Straightforward
In 2018, a self-driving Uber car collided with a 49-year-old pedestrian, causing her death. Her death was the first known death caused by a computer-operated car by force of impact. The Uber car was driving at 38 miles-per-hour when it collided with the pedestrian. Initially, Tempe police stated that the pedestrian was likely at fault. The police report said the pedestrian came “from the shadows.” She stepped off of the median into the road and into the path of the car while jaywalking.
In a separate incident, an auto-operating Tesla collided with a tractor-trailer. The driver of the tractor-trailer made a left-hand turn when the accident happened. The collision caused the death of the driver of the Tesla. This was the first known self-driving vehicle fatality. The Tesla had, apparently, warned the driver to take control of the vehicle before the accident happened. Both of these real-life examples demonstrate the challenges in determining fault in car accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 95% of car accidents are caused by some sort of driver negligence or error. Even with the increased use of self-driving cars, however, car accidents causing fatalities will still occur.
Self-Driving Cars Will be Rolling Out Over the Next Few Decades
It could take several decades before the majority of Americans drive self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still more expensive than traditional cars. Until most cars are self-driving, traditionally driven cars will still be on the road. As long as drivers are driving cars, accidents caused by drunk driving, negligence, and distracted driving will continue to happen.
Who is Liable in Car Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars?
States might begin to pass laws that specifically address liability in car accidents caused by self-driving cars. As of right now, when a person suffers an injury in a car accident, he or she will need to bring forth a personal injury lawsuit to seek damages. Every state recognizes the doctrine of negligence. When a negligent driver’s negligence causes another person’s injury, the negligent driver is responsible to pay for damages.
What happens when a self-driving car acts unreasonably? Is it possible for a self-driving car to negligently cause a car accident? Self-driving cars use artificial intelligence that is said to be much safer than human drivers. If a self-driving car did take a negligent action, perhaps due to faulty programming, the owner of the self-driving car could be liable for the injuries caused by the accident. The owner of the Uber vehicle or self-driving car could be liable for the damages caused by the car in this situation.
Who is Liable When Uber Owns and Operates Self-Driving Cars?
When a business like Uber or another company is providing transportation for customers as a business, the business could be liable for injuries caused by accidents. Additionally, the car manufacturer itself could be liable for damages under New York’s product liability laws. Under New York Law, goods, including motor vehicles, must be fit for the ordinary purpose for which cars are used. Additionally, the cars must conform with any promises made by the manufacturer.
Self-driving cars are so new that states and their laws have not adequately caught up to them. Many questions remain unaddressed about how autonomous cars will affect personal liability lawsuits. We do know, however, that those injured in a car accident involving an autonomous car may have a right to compensation for their injuries. In a recent lawsuit involving a Tesla car accident that occurred in 2017, the plaintiffs are alleging that Tesla introduced its Model X without proper safety equipment. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the Tesla Model X did not have sufficient and effective automatic emergency braking safety features.
If You have Suffered an Injury Involving an Autonomous Car, We can Help
As the number of autonomous cars increases in New York, so will car accidents involving them. If you have suffered an injury in an autonomous car accident, we can help. Contact our New York personal injury law firm to schedule your initial consultation to discuss if you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries.