Self-Driving Vehicle

With the rise of technology, some laws that have always been a given have become more complicated. Take car accidents, for example. It used to be clear-cut that if another driver causes an accident and you are injured, you can sue. But what happens with a self-driving vehicle? Now that these self-driving vehicles are becoming a reality, this is a question successful Atlanta law firms must have an answer for. Take a closer look at the answer to this question and the still somewhat murky legal area regarding self-driving cars.

Obviously, You Cannot Sue An Object

In the case of a traditional vehicle, the driver of the auto is in control of it and responsible for the vehicle’s actions. Therefore, they would be the person you would sue if you are in an accident causing injuries. Sometimes, the owner of the vehicle can also be held liable, assuming they knew the driver was borrowing their car. The exception would be if the accident was not the fault of the driver, but a manufacturer’s defect in the auto, in which case the automaker would be the party you would sue. In the case of a self-driving vehicle, the “driver” is the vehicle itself. Obviously, vehicles have no money or status, so you cannot sue one.

So, the question becomes whether you can take legal action if there is an accident involving a self-driving car. Most people would agree that you should be able to sue someone. But would it be the owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer, or someone else? Or would you really have no option other than filing with insurance?

Safety Regulations For Self-Driving Vehicles Is Still Murky

Self-driving vehicles are starting to pop up, but they are still rare and very expensive. Overall, it is safe to say that very few people have a self-driving vehicle, but that this is likely to change in the very near future. Unfortunately, there are still no clear safety regulations regarding these vehicles.

Congress has not successfully passed any regulations on a federal level, leaving states to make their own laws. While some states have comprehensive safety regulations in place for self-driving vehicles, others do not. That makes the landscape particularly challenging for manufacturers of self-driving vehicles, since their vehicle may be legal in some states and not others.

The Responsible Party May Vary By State

Because laws regarding self-driving vehicles are created by each state, that means that the person responsible for injuries caused by a self-driving car may vary by state. In some cases, it may be the vehicle’s owner. In other cases, it might be the manufacturer.

For Now, Someone Must Be In The Driver’s Seat

At the moment, fully autonomous self-driving vehicles are not yet available to the public. This means that even self-driving vehicles must have someone behind the wheel. Successful Atlanta law firms must figure out whether the person behind the wheel or the manufacturer of the auto would be responsible for a collision. At the moment, drivers are made fully aware that they may need to take over the vehicle’s controls in certain situations. As such, lawyers would likely have a case against the person behind the wheel in the case of a collision. Although, they may also have a case against the manufacturer depending on the warnings that automaker delivered and the cause of the issue.

When fully autonomous vehicles become mainstream, however, the driver will be removed from the situation. There will be no expectation that someone sits behind the wheel and takes control of the vehicle for brief periods of time.

During Testing, The Testing Company Is Liable

Recent incidents have shown that in the current state of self-driving vehicles, the company completing testing is responsible for accidents that occur during testing. This became national news in March 2018 when a self-driving Uber car that was undergoing testing killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

This was the very first pedestrian death from a vehicle with self-driving technology and there was a backup driver sitting behind the wheel. In this case, legal experts agreed that Uber, the company responsible for the testing, carried the liability. Based on this case, it is clear that you would sue the testing company for damages and injuries from testing a self-driving vehicle.

Manufacturers Are Liable In Some Situations

What about when testing is not ongoing? In those cases, the manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle may be liable. This depends on the situation and the state. Michigan, for example, legally defines the “driver” of a self-driving vehicle as the automated driving system. Since this is created by the manufacturer, they would be considered the driver in the event of a collision. In other words, states with regulations like this mean that the manufacturer would be sued in the event of a collision due to the automated driving system.

You Must Prove Fault To Sue A Manufacturer

In order to sue a vehicle manufacturer, however, you would need to first prove that they are at fault. Successful Atlanta law firms would have to work with you to show that the accident was caused by a design flaw or developmental issue in the automated driving system. Alternatively, you could use the vehicle’s data recorder to show that it broke a traffic law.

The Legal Questions Are Still Evolving

The thing to remember when it comes to suing self-driving cars is that this is still a relatively new issue. As more self-driving vehicles take the road and do more than just undergo testing, the laws will have to evolve. At some point, each state will need to create firm regulations regarding self-driving vehicles or there will need to be some created at the national level.

At the moment, there are many semi-autonomous vehicles on the road, and these are likely what we will see in the years to come. For these vehicles, a lawyer will be able to help you determine whether you would sue the driver of the vehicle, the owner, or the manufacturer.

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