Self-Driving Cars and Liability for Car Wrecks
A motorcycle driver in San Francisco was hit by a car that swerved into his lane, but he’s not suing the driver of the car – he’s blaming the car itself.
If you think that sounds crazy … well, get used to it. As more self-driving vehicles hit the nation’s roads, drivers, police, pedestrians, attorneys, and juries face a new and tricky question: Who’s at fault when an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash?
In the San Francisco accident, the police claim it’s the motorcyclist’s fault, saying that he tried to pass the car, a Cruise AV, at an inappropriate time.
But, the biker has filed a lawsuit against the car’s maker, General Motors, and his attorney says the car made an “unpredictable and dangerous” maneuver when it aborted an attempt to change lanes. Not surprisingly, GM is siding with the police.
This is one of the first lawsuits dealing with driverless vehicle technology, but you can be sure that many more will follow in the coming years…
Are There Self-Driving Cars in South Carolina Yet?
For now, there are no fully automated vehicles on the road here. Even cars that are being described as self-driving are so rare that you could go years without seeing one on South Carolina’s roads.
As often happens when marketing a product, manufacturers are sending confusing messages about these cars. While they sometimes call them “autonomous” or “self-driving,” they also say (probably to protect themselves from liability) that the auto-pilot mode is just an assistance system, and that drivers should always keep their hands on the wheel.
It’s kind of like auto-pilot in an airplane – the system can control the trajectory of the plane, but the pilot is still ultimately in control.
And of course, the “operator” of an autonomous vehicle can quickly and easily become the “driver” if he chooses to turn off the automated system and drive it like a normal, old-fashioned car.
Who’s Liable When a Driverless Car Crashes?
The arrival of driverless technology raises a lot of questions. Most importantly: Who’s in control? Who’s to blame if the car crashes?
Courts dealing with lawsuits will play as important a role in answering these questions as lawmakers will.
Already, the California Department of Motor Vehicles says the state has seen 54 accidents involving driverless vehicles. Already this year, two Teslas in autopilot mode were involved in accidents in California. Regardless of the manufacturer’s safety claims, there is no doubt the number of these kinds of accidents will continue to go up.
Here’s another certainty – if liability for car accidents starts to shift away from drivers and to the companies that make cars, those manufacturers will fight just as hard as insurance companies to limit their liability.
SC Auto Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Charleston, and Columbia
Whether it is an autonomous vehicle or an old-fashioned car with a driver, Coastal Law’s SC car wreck lawyers will help you to determine who is liable and collect maximum damages from the driver, insurance company, or manufacturers.
Call us now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to schedule a free initial consultation and review of your case.
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