Self-Driving Cars: Autonomous Car Liability

smart automotive Driverless car with artificial intelligence combine with deep learning technology
Posted: December 29, 2023

A 2020 AAA survey of attitudes on automated vehicles found that only 12 percent of drivers would trust riding in a self-driving car. 

Most drivers don’t want fully autonomous cars, according to AAA; they want better-performing support technology, which also has failed to fully win their trust. 

Consumer skepticism is justified, AAA states. Recent testing showed continued inconsistency among available driver-assistance features. In fact, some testing has resulted in collisions between a car and a cyclist. This testing is consistent with new reports that semi-autonomous cars now on the market have been involved in fatal crashes while using driving assistance systems.  

Liability concerns 

Imperfect driving technology as a factor in roadway accidents raises complicated liability issues. Some people believe existing laws pertaining to an old problem—dogs who bite people—could apply to new-fangled driver-assistance systems. “Laws governing canine ownership are a good model on which to base laws governing autonomous cars,” write the authors of a December 2017 article in Southern Methodist University’s Science and Technology Law Review titled “Sit, Stay, Drive: The Future of Autonomous Car Liability.”  

“[B]oth dogs and autonomous cars think and act independent from their human owners, and these independent acts have similar consequences of inflicting personal injury or property damage,” the authors claim, so “[t]he justifications for imposing strict liability upon canine owners are equally applicable to autonomous cars.”  

Strict liability is a theory of personal-injury liability in which defendants can be responsible for something that happens regardless of whether they themselves did or intended to do anything wrong—such as when a defective product causes harm; when someone is injured on someone else’s property; or when an animal attacks someone. 

Product liability and self-driving cars are more complicated than that, however—and different from anything so far legislated, other experts contend. 

Unprecedented complexity 

The Brookings Institute points out that autonomous vehicles will further complicate the relationships between insurance carriers, injured people, defendants, and manufacturers.  

In “Sue My Car Not Me: Products Liability and Accidents Involving Autonomous Vehicles”—an article in the University of Illinois Journal of Law–the author contends that manufacturers of autonomous technology should be held liable for accidents caused in autonomous mode because the autonomous vehicle probably caused the accident. Liability should shift back to the driver, however, if the accident was preventable but the motorist was distracted, intoxicated, or disabled or was driving with diminished capabilities.  

A properly attentive driver “watches the road and surroundings in the same way he or she would while driving a traditional vehicle,” according to the article.  

Potential problems with self-driving cars 

According to some reports, driver error causes more than nine in 10 accidents. The hope is that automated cars will be safer 

But self-driving vehicles raise concerns of their own regarding 

  • the economy, because they would potentially displace cabdrivers, truckers, and other paid drivers; 
  • cybersecurity, because they may be hacked; 
  • safety, because, like all other roadway actors, they sometimes must respond to unforeseen  situations; and 
  • autonomy—or lack of same—because they’re not yet fully autonomous and allow for human involvement, and thus, error.  

The truth is, whether you drive a semi-autonomous vehicle or take a trip with a driverless transportation service, you remain at risk of being involved in a car crash. 

If you were injured in a self-driving vehicle while it was in an autonomous mode, the at-fault party may be the car’s manufacturer and you could be entitled to compensation for 

  • medical expenses; 
  • future medical care; 
  • lost wages; 
  • pain and suffering; and/or 
  • wrongful death. 

A personal-injury attorney can analyze your case and help determine who may be liable for your driverless car accident. Vehicles on the road today have varying degrees of automation but are not self-automated in a literal sense and thus are not truly self-driving. If you were hurt by a semi-autonomous vehicle on New York roads, the team at William Mattar, P.C. can advocate for you to get maximum compensation. 

Call a self-driving car accident attorney today 

If you’ve been injured in a self-driving car accident, the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. can help. Our experienced legal professionals can guide you through the process to help you achieve a financial recovery.  Call 844-444-4444 today to speak to an attorney. Or schedule a free initial consultation by filling out our online form.  


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