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Who is Liable in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

If you’ve been paying attention to the automotive industry at all, you’re likely well-aware of the ability that some electric cars have (notably those from automaker Tesla) to pilot themselves. However, many people fear this new technology, and for good reason: it’s still very much in its infancy, and a combination of faulty programming as well as human error could lead to a crash that causes devastating injuries. This brings up an interesting question that’s becoming more and more relevant as the technology evolves: who is liable when an autonomous vehicle crashes?

How “Autonomous” Is the Car Really?

Did you know autonomous driving technology has actually already existed in a limited capacity for several years? In fact, your car might even have some of it—cruise control is an extremely limited type of autonomous technology, where a computer controls the throttle of a car to keep it driving at a steady speed. Today’s cars are taking things several steps further.

Because of this wide range of different levels of autonomy, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Society of Automotive Engineers have created a six-step scale to show how autonomous a car actually is. Zero on the scale is full and total human control, six total autonomy with no human input whatsoever.

Legal Limits

This scale is likely to be used when determining whether the driver of one of these cars is held responsible for an accident or when the issue becomes one of product liability. The common belief is that anything level two or below is still the total responsibility of the driver, as they still have a substantial degree of control over the vehicle. Anything three or above, however, and things will get more complicated.

However, that being said, the test results for autonomous vehicles have been promising. Autonomous driving can dramatically reduce the role of the number one cause of car accidents: human error. As cars become more and more capable of eliminating the human factor, driving will become safer and liability will shift away from drivers and on to manufacturers to ensure proper operation.

Have you been injured as a result of a car accident? Call Dean Law Firm today at (432) 214-8125 and let our Midland car accident attorneys fight for your rights!
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