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Who Is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Posted on June 17, 2022 Car Accidents

Self-driving cars are meant to improve the safety of the road, not add to the annual number of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths. Unfortunately, many self-driving car accidents have caused serious injuries and taken lives since their debut. Although a self-driving car reduces the risk of human error, it comes with its own hazards related to complicated autonomous technologies. If you get injured in a self-driving car accident in Texas, liability for your crash can be difficult to determine. This is why it’s important to work with a car accident lawyer in Dallas to help resolve your claim and get you the best possible outcome.

Human Operator

self driving car accidentOne goal within the self-driving car industry is to manufacture vehicles that are 100% autonomous and require no human input to operate. The current reality, however, is that most autonomous vehicles require a human operator or supervisor. This leaves room for human error. One deadly crash in a Tesla operating on autopilot, for example, occurred as a result of the driver failing to heed the car’s warning to take the wheel. If a human operator is partially or wholly to blame for a self-driving car accident, he or she will be liable for damages.

Technology Company

One of the challenges of self-driving cars is the complex autonomous technology. Self-driving vehicles use cutting-edge technologies to operate – technologies that are often new and not thoroughly tested. If this technology fails in use, it can cause a car accident. This was the case in another fatal Tesla accident on autopilot in 2019, when the vehicle’s radar failed to detect a semi-truck.
If self-driving technology contains a defect and malfunctions, causing a car accident, the company responsible for the technology could be liable. In many cases, the technology company is different from the vehicle manufacturer. For example, Uber’s self-driving vehicles rely on Nvidia Corp to develop its microchips. If an investigation finds the autonomous technology to blame for an accident, the company that made the defective part will be responsible.

Vehicle Manufacturer

The manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle could be liable for a crash if the cause of the accident traces back to a defect in the vehicle’s design, assembly or marketing. If the manufacturing company made an error while designing the vehicle that makes it unreasonably dangerous for consumers, for example, the company would be liable for a related collision. Many car companies have joined the race to develop self-driving cars, including:

  • Argo AI
  • Audi
  • Baidu
  • Cadillac
  • GM
  • Google/Waymo
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Uber
  • Volvo

Under Texas’ product liability laws, an injured accident victim will not need to prove negligence for a claim against a manufacturer, in most cases. Instead, it will be enough to prove that the self-driving car contained a defect and that this defect caused the car accident. These two facts will make the manufacturing company liable even if it was not negligent.

The Government

Another liability possibility is the government agency responsible for safety rules and regulations for self-driving cars. The state government may be liable, for example, if it had lax rules for safety-testing self-driving cars, and if this contributed to a serious car accident during an autonomous vehicle pilot test. Federal, state and local governments must take citizen safety seriously while granting companies permission to safety-test their vehicles on public roads.

Third Party

Some self-driving vehicle accidents are not related to factors specifically associated with autonomous technology. If a driver outside of the self-driving car caused the crash by texting and driving, for example, that driver would be liable. Other possibilities include the local government for a roadway defect, a property owner for a dangerous parking lot and an employer for a negligent on-duty driver.
Determining liability for a self-driving car accident in Texas can be challenging. For assistance with your particular car accident case, contact a lawyer near you.