What legal liability do autonomous vehicle owners have when an accident occurs? Are manufacturers liable for the accidents, injuries, and fatalities faulty software and defective hardware cause? Autonomous vehicles aren't just science fiction any longer and modern vehicles have many autonomous features. When these vehicles are involved in an accident, the driver, vehicle manufacturer, or device manufacturer can be held liable for the injuries they cause.
Autonomous Vehicles in the United States
Approximately 27 million vehicles have some form of driver assistance technology. These include features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, electronic stability control, traction control, etc. Manufacturers claim these features help reduce the risk of an accident and point to statistics that show up to 90% of all accidents involve driver error. Thus, in theory the increased prevalence of autonomous features should reduce the rates of accidents and fatalities.
If true, this decline is happening very slowly and at a slower rate than these autonomous features are being introduced to the market. In 2018, the National Safety Council estimated that fatalities for the year were just over 40,000. This was a 1% decline from the 40,231 fatalities recorded in 2017 and the 40,327 who died in 2016.
Google and Robocars
Google's fully autonomous self-driving vehicles have logged more than 10 billion simulated road miles. This is far and away the largest number within the emerging autonomous vehicle market. The company is eager to get the jump on the competition because it is estimated that when robocars become available to the public, they could add up to $7 trillion dollars to the economy. But, at what human cost? The fact is that no one really knows right now.
That is because autonomous vehicle systems are far from perfect. When they fail and cause a motor vehicle accident, 14% of the time it involves hitting an object in front of the vehicle. 29% of the time it involves a sideswipe, and 57% of the time it involves a rear end collision.
Liability for Failures
Drivers who fail to properly utilize autonomous safety features on their vehicle, or deliberately override them, can be bear legal liability for their negligence. Similarly, vehicle and device manufacturers as well as mechanics can be held liable for the installation of faulty devices. Additionally, vehicle and device manufacturers can be liable for failure to recall devices with known faults, or failure to properly update devices when glitches are discovered.
Call in the Bull to speak with our attorneys about legal liability and how it relates to your case. Our motor vehicle accident attorneys can help you understand your legal rights in Wichita, Liberal, or anywhere in Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, or Texas. You can call us at 1-800-241-BRAD, or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400 to speak with an attorney. You can reach Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can call Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237. You can call from Western Kansas at 620-THE-BULL.