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Who is Liable in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Technological advancements continue to astound and impress. In a bid to remove human error from roadways, a number of automakers and technology companies are collaborating on developing and testing self-driving cars. The motivation is understandable as most motor vehicle accidents are caused by human error. But, what happens in the event of a self-driving car accident?

The expert Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers can answer any questions you have on liability and damages.

Automation Levels

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has worked with the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop an automation scale. It details six-vehicle automation levels, which can come in handy when determining liability in a self-driving accident. Generally, the lower the automation, the more liability a driver is likely to have.

A driverless car can have one of the following levels of automation.

  • Level 0 — This level is referred to as No Automation. It includes basic features.
  • Level 1 —  Most vehicles have level 1 automation or Driver Assistance. It includes lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
  • Level 2 — Also called Partial Automation. Works with the driver’s hands on the wheel to control speed and steering.
  • Level 3 — A vehicle with level 3 automation, or Conditional Automation, can drive itself under pre-determined conditions. However, the driver must remain behind the wheel.
  • Level 4 — This level is also called High Automation. Vehicles at this level can drive themselves without the need for a human driver. However, they are restricted to known environments, conditions, and uses.
  • Level 5 — A vehicle with level 5 has Full Automation and is truly self-driving. It can drive through any road condition without human condition. Essentially, this technology doesn’t exist yet.

Liability in Self-Driving Accidents

A typical car accident involves two vehicles, each with its own driver. Here the negligent driver can be held responsible for the accident and the resulting injuries. A self-driving car accident, on the other hand, is a vehicle that is technically driving itself. It is no wonder it raises questions of liability.

In a self-driving car accident, liability could rest on one of several parties. They include:

  • The Driver — When human interaction is present, the driver can be held responsible for damages if they fail to act to prevent an accident. 
  • The Car Manufacturer — If the automation was working properly and the driver was not negligent, the fault could rest on the car’s manufacturer. This is the case where the accident was caused by a vehicle malfunction.
  • The Automation Technology Designer — The automation technology could fail to perform as expected and cause an accident. Its designer could hold liability.

Consult a Car Accident Lawyer

Self-driving cars could solve the problem of human error on roads. However, they could also create questions on liability and compensation? Who is to blame for a victim’s injuries when no one was present in the vehicle during the accident?

We understand how complex liability can be in a self-driving car accident. This is why we provide professional guidance and representation to our clients. Contact the experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers today at 888-542-6021 to schedule a free consultation.