As you may have heard, Uber has begun a self-driving car program in California. In August, the company had its first reported crash in San Francisco. One of the Uber vehicles was rear-ended after its human driver turned off the self-driving technology in order to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
As required by law, Uber filed a report with the DMV. Uber was quick to point out that the driver had taken control of the vehicle at the time, and that the accident did not involve self-driving technology.
Uber has had regulatory issues with its self-driving vehicle program, although it appears that those have mostly been resolved. In California, companies who wish to use self-driving vehicles on public roads must receive permits from the DMV to test their vehicles. In December 2016, Uber began its program in San Francisco, despite lacking the required permit. About 20 other companies had sought out and received permits to test their own vehicles. Uber’s self-driving vehicles were seen throughout San Francisco, where they were reported running at least six red lights, which was allegedly due to mapping problems.
Uber was ordered by the DMV to halt the self-driving vehicles because it did not have the necessary permits from the DMV. Uber then stopped testing and moved its 16 testing vehicles to Arizona. Since then, it has obtained the permits and restarted the tests in California.
Technology is changing faster than the auto insurance market and the law can keep up. Since rideshare programs such as Uber and Lyft began, there have been questions about who bears the liability if a rideshare vehicle is involved in an accident. There have been serious accidents involving rideshare vehicles in which the companies involved denied legal responsibility for the damages, claiming that their drivers are independent contractors and the company is not liable, or that the driver was not “on the job” at the time the accident occurred but was merely waiting to find a passenger.
Currently, once the passenger is in the rideshare car, he or she is normally covered by the company’s car insurance policy, which has high limits. However, there could be exceptions or defenses, and there is no guarantee that your claim will be covered. Also, if a rideshare driver is not “online” at the time of the accident, the company’s policy may not apply. Ideally, the driver will have his or her own commercial automobile liability policy, but that’s not always the case.
Self-driving vehicles also raise insurance issues of their own. Many experts predict that the automobile insurance market will undergo a complete overhaul over the next few years, as technology continues to involve and become more prevalent. If self-driving cars become the norm, it’s not clear how insurance policies will be involved. Right now, insurance policies are based on the attributes of drivers. A driverless vehicle offers new insurance challenges.
Many in the industry believe that self-driving vehicles will help reduce human error, which is the cause of the vast majority of accidents. Any accidents that do occur will more likely be the fault of the vehicle, not the driver. In the future, vehicle manufacturers may be responsible for insuring against accidents, which is a huge expenses that the manufacturers may not be able to bear, which could actually work against the technology being introduced to a wider market. For now, insurers are expected to continue collecting safety information over the next few years that will allow them to analyze the performance of self-driving vehicles.
In the meantime, auto insurers play a huge role in accident victims being properly compensated after a crash. In many cases, automobile collision victims must hire an attorney in order to get a fair amount of damages. If you have been involved in an automobile accident in the Oakland-San Francisco area and you suffered damages or an injury, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco automobile collision attorney at 510-645-1000. She can help. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.