Earlier this month, San Francisco had its first traffic accident involving a self-driving car. The accident occurred on January 8th when a self-driving Nissan Leaf hit a parked Toyota Prius. The Leaf was being operated by Cruise Automation. The accident occurred on 7th Street near Bryant Street.
At the time of the accident, there was a driver in the vehicle. The vehicle began moving in its lane to the left, and then began correcting to the right. The driver at that point decided to take over control of the vehicle. After the driver took control of the vehicle, the driver did not change the path of the vehicle and it hit the parked car.
It’s not clear exactly how long the driver had to correct the course of the car before the accident, but according to Cruise Automation, the driver was alerted several seconds before the crash. However, the driver made a mistake, which resulted in the accident. It’s not clear if the car would have crashed if it had been left in self-driving mode. Both cars suffered minor damage in the accident. Currently, Cruise Automation is working to develop an after-market autopilot system, which will work with newer Audi models. The company claims that it has already presold 250 units of the system.
By law, the California Department of Motor Vehicles requires reports on any accident occurring on public roads that involve self-driving cars. There have been a handful of accidents reported. Most of the accidents involve Google vehicles. Google has the largest fleet of self-driving cars, and has been testing the vehicles more than any other company.
Self-driving cars offer new challenges for personal injury attorneys. Self-driving cars are still in the testing stages, and there have been no personal injury cases in court involving a self-driving car. Under current law, if a driver makes a mistake while driving that results in an accident, the other individuals injured in the accident can sue for their damages. It’s been estimated that roughly 90 percent of car crashes occur because of some type of driver error.
However, what happens when an accident occurs because of a mistake made by a self-driving car, and someone is injured? It’s unclear whether the automobile manufacturer, the manufacturer of the software, or the person inside the car who should be monitoring the car’s actions will be considered legally liable. There are strong arguments to be made for each party to bear some type of legal responsibility. To date, all of the crashes involving self-driving cars have been minor and have not involved injuries.
When self-driving cars do become commonplace and accidents inevitably occur, it will be fascinating to see how the early cases play out in court, and what liability each of the parties involved will have. Will the computers driving the vehicles be expected to operate perfectly, or do the humans inside have some responsibility to ensure that the computer is operating correctly?
If you have been involved in a car accident in the San Francisco Bay area, you should speak with an attorney to ensure your legal rights are protected. You may be entitled to damages including lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, property damage, and more. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that all accident victims should have an attorney who is looking out for their legal rights.
Call the San Francisco automobile accident attorneys at Liberty Law at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000 to learn more about how to protect your legal rights. We offer free consultations to potential clients. Call today to schedule a free consultation on your case.