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Driverless Cars: Who Can Be Held Liable for Accidents?

by  on  News & Resources

Leading companies like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Apple have been developing and testing self-driving cars as the next step in the transportation of the future. As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, these cars promise to do all the work for you — braking, stopping, navigating, accelerating and avoiding obstacles — everything a human driver can do, all while allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

For many, an automatic car may be a nice upgrade to their daily commutes and driving routines, but the idea of removing the human driver has some wondering where the responsibility for accidents and collisions will fall.

In most car accidents, it is fairly easy to pinpoint a few things that can lead to a crash. The distraction of an incoming text message on a cell phone, driving on an unfamiliar road, poor weather conditions, intoxication — all of these are common things that can result in a crash and can typically be assigned to human error or situational occurrences. If a driver is at fault, the injured parties can hold him or her responsible for their injuries and the damage done to their vehicle in a personal injury or insurance claim.

But in a driverless car, a person may be sitting behind the wheel while the machine is handling every aspect of the driving — everything from accelerating the vehicle to the appropriate speed to navigating around potential obstacles. There’s no driver to blame if the vehicle fails to stop or veers sharply into another lane of traffic or suddenly speeds up or slows down.

So, Who Will Take Responsibility?

According to recent announcements from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Google, the manufacturers will be taking the blame if any damages or injuries occur as a result of a crash or accident involving a driverless vehicle. Once the cars are on the market and available to the general public, each vehicle maker will be responsible for any incidents.

Despite these assurances that the manufacturers will accept all responsibility, the companies have apparently not signed any legal documentation to back up the statements made to the public. However, this may not prove to be an issue if the results for the test models are any indication of how the vehicles will perform. So far, human drivers have been the cause of the accidents that the self-driving test cars on public roads have been in, according to Google’s results.

Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have been manufacturing and testing self-driving cars, but Google has no plans to actually manufacture their own version. Although they have not yet specified how they will be involved in the self-driving car movement, it is speculated that the company will be selling self-driving software to other manufacturers.

Protect Yourself

Your safety comes first, no matter what car you’re driving. Self-driving vehicles may very well be the way of the future, and if they can operate safely, they could significantly reduce risks for drivers everywhere. However, it will be important to understand the responsibilities for self-driving car owners and those involved in any accidents. For more information on accident laws, contact a Denver personal injury attorney at Levine Law today.