Legal Challenges of the Modern Age: Self-Driving Cars and Liability Through the Eyes of the Law

There are over 6 million accidents each year in the USA. That’s half a million per month, a number that sounds totally terrifying when you say it out loud. Being involved in a car accident is a horrible thing to deal with. Thankfully we have a legal system which holds people responsible for their actions. This is why you can be compensated for any accidents, and insurance is required for all drivers. This insurance will at least see you aren’t left footing the bill for an accident you didn’t cause, but it’s the other driver’s liability which opens them up to compensation claims.

The Safety of Self-Driving Cars

Of course, the laws governing driving were created many years ago. They still get tweaked from time to time of course – they have to because the world is always changing. A big example of this is artificial intelligence. Why does that relate to car accidents? Well because of self-driving cars. Think about it, there’s no driver in the car, and it’s the driver that is at fault in an accident.

The first thing to mention is that there have already been accidents involving self-driving cars, proving that the AI isn’t perfect. However, it’s estimated that around 95% of accidents involve driver error, with the remainder being made up largely of mechanical failures as well. With AI the mechanical issues could still happen, but driver error is eliminated, and the technology should improve over time.

Current Legalities

At this time self-driving cars are an even hotter topic because of proposals for self-driving vehicles with no onboard human. The big company pushing for this is Uber and they have already been allowed to use these cars in some places, such as Arizona. The rules in such places are that the vehicles must meet certain criteria and have a number of safety features before being allowed on the roads. This doesn’t guarantee accidents won’t happen though.

One thing that it does mean though is that the manufacturer could also be liable in some circumstances. If the law requires the product to be safe and to be proven such, then the failure of an operational vehicle would indicate negligence or a defect, both of which would be the manufacturer’s responsibility.

The best thing to do if involved in an accident with a self-driving car is to contact a car accident lawyer. This is because the situations can vary a lot, so a good understanding of the law is important.

Situational Changes

The situation, the accident happens in, will also have a big impact on who is liable. For example, if a pedestrian was to step out suddenly in front of a self-driving car then they would be responsible for the accident, just as they would if the car was being driven by a human.

A fault in the self-driving system would make the manufacturer the main liable party because it would be a product defect. In the case of the car being used or operated improperly by the owner though then the owner could be held liable. This could be the case if the car is warning an onboard human to take over and they don’t do it, resulting in an accident.

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