If you are injured in a car accident, your most likely source of compensation is the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. The rise of autonomous, or driverless cars, has led to questions about liability. If you are hit by a driverless car, the lack of a driver could be a problem. Who will be liable for the damage you suffered? Who is responsible when there is no one behind the wheel?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that, in a regulatory sense, the driver of a driverless vehicle is the software controlling it. The NHTSA made this announcement in a communication with Google, one of the leading companies attempting to get driverless cars on the road. The NHTSA’s decision answers a number of important questions and may help speed the process of getting driverless cars onto American roads.
As a practical matter, it will likely still be insurance companies you will have to battle to get the money you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other consequences of your accident. The insurance company in question, however, will be the one chosen by the software developer and the automaker that chose them. How this will change the rights of victims in personal injury claims remains to be seen.
Self-driving cars have the potential to greatly reduce the number of people injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents. The mistakes made by human drivers are the cause of the vast majority of accidents today. Autonomous vehicles could end accidents caused by drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, distracted drivers and inexperienced drivers. While these vehicles will likely come with problems of their own, they could make a tremendous difference in keeping the roads safe.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor, “Google computer ruled a ‘driver’ in a big win for autonomous car technology,” by Richard Read, 10 February 2016