Last month, two men were killed after their car, a Tesla 2019 Model S, crashed and caught fire in a residential area about 30 miles from Houston, Texas. Witnesses said that the vehicle was going at a high speed when it suddenly went off the road and hit the tree. The authorities believe that neither men were behind the wheel. No one was driving the vehicle when the crash happened.
Self-Driving Car Accidents Begin
One of the most popular features of Tesla cars is its constantly evolving Autopilot, an advanced driver-assist system that utilizes sensors and cameras to guide the vehicle while on the road. Another feature, the Full Self-Driving Capability, can summon the car from its parking space to the location of the driver.
Tesla says that both Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability require an attentive driver behind the wheel. Even if the features have improved since their launch and continue to improve through use, they still are not ready to run without the presence of a human being behind the wheel.
Yet, people continue trying. There are safeguards that prevent the Autopilot and the Full Self-Driving Capability from running without a driver. The vehicle would require hands on the steering wheel and the seatbelt to be buckled. However, critics argue that these are not enough. The company should do more to stop people from using the features incorrectly.
The incident in April was not the first to involve a Tesla. In 2016, a driver in Florida was also killed while using the vehicle’s Autopilot feature which failed to detect a tractor-trailer on the road, according to reports.
Advocates argue that self-driving cars can make the roads safer because it reduces the possibility of errors by replacing humans with computers. It can also reduce congestion and lower emissions.
Toyota, Honda, General Motors, and Google are also developing their own self-driving cars. The vehicles are still undergoing testing, but experts believe that they will begin to become the primary way people travel soon.
Who is at Fault if There is No Driver?
However, as was proven, self-driving cars are not immune to accidents. The technology will continue to improve in the future and might reach the point where it can eliminate road accidents completely. Right now and, likely, for a while, incidents will continue to happen.
But, who is at fault when an accident happens involving a self-driving car?
The first thing that anyone should do when involved in a crash is to call a car accident lawyer. Whether the vehicle was driven by a human or was self-driving, a lawyer will be able to provide relevant legal advice and guide you in case you want to take matters to court.
Right now, autonomous cars are not yet truly autonomous. The technology still requires a driver who will be able to take over once the situation is unsafe. The driver should potentially be able to intervene and prevent the accident.
Most incidents involving self-driving cars happened because the driver refused to follow the rules. They relied on technology to keep them safe and deliver them to their destination. However, the cars still require the attentive driver’s input at all times and unless the technology improves, drivers will be at fault for crashes.
When is the Manufacturer at Fault?
The nature of the technology makes blaming the manufacturer for an accident, but it has happened.
In 2017, a motorcyclist filed a lawsuit against General Motors after a Chevron Bolt, which was utilizing its Cruise Automation feature, suddenly changed lanes, colliding with a motorcycle. The crash, according to the suit, caused injuries that led the plaintiff to take disability leave from work.
Tesla, as mentioned above, is being investigated for the number of accidents involving its vehicles and its self-driving capacities.
Moreover, a study has found that human drivers become more careless and take more risks when using a self-driving car. They trust that the technology will drive more conservatively and, therefore, will try to push it to its limits.
The technology right now is not ready for self-driving vehicles. It still requires humans for safety and legal purposes. In the future, when true autonomous cars become the primary way for people to travel, new regulations will be passed to govern the technology and protect drivers and passengers in case of accidents. The arrival of the new technology will transform laws on the road.