Will Self-Driving Cars Result in More Auto Defect Cases?

Self-driving cars driving on a road.

Despite the advantages of self-driving cars, some people say that there will be more accidents and auto defect cases because of these vehicles. Just as human error and poor decisions can lead to collisions in traditional cars, glitches and programming defects can cause crashes in autonomous vehicles. When you have auto accidents, you can have lawsuits. 

One of the legal theories for these cases will be that the cars have defects in the software or hardware that controls the vehicles. A New Jersey product liability attorney can advise you on whether you might have a valid claim for compensation and help you go after money damages. 

How to Evaluate Causative Factors in Autonomous and Traditional Vehicles

Because autonomous vehicles potentially take the driver’s human error out of the equation, we have to analyze these cases in a different manner than the traditional car accident case. Also, some cars are a kind of hybrid, with many self-driving features but not 100 percent lack of responsibility by the passenger.

Factors in Traditional Vehicle Crashes

When an “old school” car (Car A) with a driver has an accident, the cause is usually one or more of these things:

  • The driver of Car A did something wrong that caused or failed to take an action that would have prevented the accident.
  • The driver of another vehicle made a mistake.
  • Another person, like a pedestrian, committed human error.
  • There was a mechanical failure of one of the cars.
  • Environmental factors, like weather or road conditions, lead to the accident.

In some situations, other factors could be at fault.

Factors in Fully Autonomous Collisions

Although there are not any fully autonomous cars legally operating on America’s highways yet, it is likely just a matter of time before these vehicles become a reality. When these cars enter the landscape of our roads, the automakers will be at risk of lawsuits when the hardware or software that controls the operations of these vehicles fails and causes accidents.

Factors in Semi-Autonomous Car Accidents

Many cars have technology that assists drivers, like braking, parking, lane drift detection, and impending collision warning. When a semi-autonomous vehicle has a collision, one has to explore all of the factors of potential causation for traditional and fully autonomous vehicles, as well as whether the driver of the self-driving car failed to pay attention. 

With some semi-autonomous vehicles, the driver can put the car into an “autopilot” mode, but is supposed to remain attentive to step in and take action when needed. There have been videos on the news of self-driving cars flying down the highway with drivers who appear to be sound asleep. In this situation, the driver could be responsible in the event of a crash, but an injured person could have a claim against the car manufacturer. 

Automakers need to program safety features into these cars that detect when the driver is asleep or inattentive. If the driver does not respond to audible and physical alerts, the driving program should take additional measures to prevent the condition from continuing.

Lawsuits involving self-driving cars will be highly technical, sophisticated litigation, including the use of engineers and other expert witnesses. You might want to talk with a New Jersey product liability attorney if you got hurt in a collision with a self-driving car. Contact us today.

Posted in: Automobile Accidents