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Who Is Liable in Crashes Involving Self-Driving Vehicles?

For years now, the promise of self-driving vehicles has inched ever closer to a reality. Currently, there are several luxury vehicles on the market that offer varying degrees of self-driving capability. These vehicles could, according to safety experts, be a better and safer alternative than having people drive themselves everywhere.

After all, human error is one of the main contributing factors to most motor vehicle collisions. A self-driving vehicle is not susceptible to distraction or at risk of impaired driving. However, self-driving vehicles raise questions about who will ultimately be liable for the crashes that do occur involving these vehicles. When a crash does occur, it will be due to technological issues, rather than human error.

What happens when self-driving vehicles cause crashes?

Liability may pass to manufacturers

The companies developing self-driving vehicles are still in the early stages of perfecting the sensors and other technological advances that allow them to operate safely. For example, there was recently a massive software update required by one company that offers autonomous driving in their vehicles.

One of the driving modes available previously did not come to full stops at four-way intersections and would instead perform rolling stops in certain circumstances. These maneuvers were not just a violation of state laws in many places but were also a deviation from best safety practices. In that situation involving faulty vehicle components or bad software, manufacturers could be the ones with legal and financial responsibility for the crashes that result.

Other countries have already started creating policies that hold manufacturers accountable. However, most states do not currently recognize self-driving vehicles in their legal code or absolve drivers of liability. Individuals who use autonomous driving systems should still remain alert and sober to resume control over the vehicle and the event of sudden changes in traffic or failure of the software.

Currently, drivers in self-driving vehicles are the ones most likely to face consequences if they get into a wreck. Eventually, those negatively affected by these crashes could eventually have reason to bring claims against manufacturers as well. Understanding liability after a serious car crash can help people coping with property damage and injuries get the compensation they require.


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