Injured by a Self-Driving Car

Injured by a Self-Driving Car

July 4, 2022

Ellis Law Corporation

Car Accidents

Car accidents are incredibly common, causing injury and death to pedestrians and other operators daily. When these incidents occur, it is usually simple to determine what happened and who was at fault. The development of technology that has led to self-driving cars has made it more difficult in many cases to determine what happened and who is responsible for the accident.

Self-Driving Car Systems

The most common and well-known type of self-driving car is the Tesla, which is considered an automated driving system (ADS) when put in autopilot mode. There are different levels of ADS, with the most advanced being so in control that the human doesn’t need to do anything or pay attention – in theory. While this sounds like a great development, the systems don’t always work properly, and accidents are common.

Levels of Automation

  • Level 1. Level 1 is an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), which can help the operator with steering or braking/accelerating, but not both simultaneously.
  • Level 2. Level 2 is also an ADAS and can help the operator with steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously. The operator must pay attention at all times to do the rest of the driving.
  • Level 3. Level 3 is an automated driving system (ADS) and can perform all aspects of driving in some situations. The human operator still needs to be ready to take over when the ADS asks the driver to take back control.
  • Level 4. In this level, the vehicle can engage in all driving tasks and essentially do all of the driving in some circumstances. In theory, the human in the car wouldn’t need to pay attention at those times.
  • Level 5. An ADS where the vehicle will do all the driving in all circumstances; the humans in the car are just passengers and never need to engage in any driving tasks.

Tesla’s autopilot mode is considered a level 2 ADAS. This means a driver must always be monitoring the car and be ready to take full control at a moment’s notice. In this level, who is to blame if an accident occurs?

Who is to Blame?

As you can see, even with Tesla’s autopilot, the human still has significant control over operating the car and must always pay attention. Depending on the circumstances, there are several options for who could be liable, including the human operator, the vehicle manufacturer, the technology designer, and of course, the other vehicle involved in the accident in some cases.

Human Operator

In most cases, the factors that would be considered in a typical car accident would be considered here as well. While the human has some help with operating the vehicle, it’s ultimately still the human’s responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting themselves or other drivers in danger and must always be prepared to fully operate the car without assistance. If you’re involved in an accident using Level 2 autopilot, factors to consider would include your speed, whether you were distracted or doing anything illegal while driving, and the actions of the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident. Whether anything malfunctioned with the ADAS will also be explored.

Vehicle Manufacturer

As advanced as the ADAS is, these cars and systems are not immune to car accidents. At times, the manufacturing of a self-driving car may be inadequate. The brakes might fail or there could be mechanical problems that caused the accident. These issues can occur for reasons related or unrelated to the ADAS. As with any vehicle defect that occurred during manufacturing, manufacturers of cars with ADAS can be held liable for accidents.

Technology Designer

Self-driving cars are still new, and certain technologies they utilize could use improvement. In addition to all the things that could go wrong in a typical car accident, the self-driving cars also use different sensors and technology that could fail. If the technology designer made a mistake and the car doesn’t operate as expected, they could be responsible. For example, if a child is in the middle of the street, the self-driving car should “see” the child and make sure the car brakes in time. If this doesn’t happen because of a mistake in the technology, the designer could be held liable.

If you were involved in an accident with a self-driving car or have any questions or need assistance, contact us today to set up a free consultation with our Los Angeles car accident lawyers.