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Will Self-Driving Cars Reduce Or Increase The Number Of Car Accidents?

Jun 25, 2017 Brown Moore Car Accidents

We may have stopped hearing about self-driving cars as frequently in the news, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away. Self-driving cars are being tested for official release into the market and they are still crashing and causing car accidents at alarming rates. They have logged hundreds of thousands of test-drive miles on California highways over the last few years, and reports indicate they may be available for public purchase and use as soon as 2020. But does that mean they are safe for us to have on the roads?

Manufacturers have found that sometimes the vehicles are crashing while in the self-driving mode, while other times their self-driving systems are simply disengaging causing the car to shift into manual mode. Tesla, BMW, Google, and a few others have been permitted to test-drive their autonomous vehicles with a driver present. The DMV rules that took effect in 2014 currently allow manufacturers to test autonomous vehicles with a driver present.

Suspicious Activity

According to reports, one company—Uber—has rejected the DMV’s proposal to collect certain test vehicle safety data (such as accidents and software failure reports) by not obtaining a $150 DMV testing permit for its self-driving cars in San Francisco last year. It appears the company didn’t want the DMV to know whether a human being was driving during the crash (and could likely be at fault), or whether it was the car’s fault.

Uber also wants the public to pay in order to ride as passengers in self-driving cars, which is in direct opposition to the regulations which govern the testing of vehicles like these. Uber also maintains that it should not have to work with law enforcement to coordinate testing.

Who Would Be Responsible In Self-Driving Car Accidents?

While these vehicles have presumed safety benefits—as they claim to solve the human error issue—the reality is that you cannot take human error out of everything, including the software that makes these vehicles run. In the future, there will be at-fault accidents where self-driving cars are determined to be responsible for the collision. And in those cases, an individual and/or entity needs to be held liable for the resulting harm.

People may argue that drivers are still expected to supervise the car’s operation and take over if necessary to avoid a collision, indicating that the driver will still be liable for any damages caused by a collision (similar to other auto accident circumstances). However, one problem with self-driving cars is that many drivers are likely to be lulled into a false sense of security because they believe the car will take care of everything on its own. This false sense of security could increase the chances of car accidents. So how does this affect the sliding scale of autonomy and how do we determine what percentage of fault the driver has?

Some believe these cars will eventually operate without any driver-oriented intervention at all, thus the automakers themselves would be responsible for collisions based upon their software design. Some automakers—such as Volvo—have already claimed that they are prepared to pay for any and all medical expenses and other damages that result from collisions due to their self-driving technology. But if this is the case, what does this mean for “drivers” carrying insurance policies? And what about drivers’ licenses? What about license plates for these vehicles? And would this somehow affect the minimum age required to drive, as well as the various tests we are required by law to take before we can drive? What about drunk, intoxicated, and/or distracted drivers?

Clearly, the laws and regulations currently in place do not fully account for the presence of these vehicles on our roads and how they will affect liability in the event of car accidents. Until we have this worked out, more automakers should follow in Volvo’s footsteps and offer to cover any expenses that come out of vehicle collisions caused by their self-driving cars.

Regardless, They Are Coming

In just one state (California), manufacturers filed 30 accident reports between late 2014 and mid-April 2017 (18 of these just since January 2016). Meanwhile, California is also passing bills to set their state on the road to self-driving cars, stating that these autonomous vehicles will ultimately reduce human-caused deaths on the roadways and provide other benefits, such as increased mobility for elderly and disabled people who are currently unable to drive.

New proposed DMV regulations would allow manufacturers to test driverless vehicles and the public to use them on public roads. Final regulations are on track to be approved in August and officially in effect in November.

As The Temperature Increases, So Do the Number of Auto Accidents. Contact Us Today

Stay safe on the roads this summer, regardless of what type of vehicle you are driving.

According to one Law Enforcement Agency, accidents tend to increase during the summer because people spend more time outdoors and travel more. As a result, summertime tends to correlate with an increase in trauma patients which includes people injured in car accidents.

If you’ve been in an accident—whether it is with a self-driving car or not—speaking with a responsible auto accident attorney immediately after the collision is in your best interest. The lawyers of Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC help car accident and personal injury clients recover compensation for their injuries and losses caused by the negligence of others in car accidents. We can advise you on how to maximize your ability to recover. Contact one of our car accident attorneys by calling toll-free or by contacting us online today.