May 13

Americans Remain Cautious About Driverless Cars

by Tate Law Offices, P.C.Car Accidents

Driverless Car Technology

A recent survey by AAA reveals that about three-quarters of Americans still fear driverless vehicle technology. The survey shows that people have many different reasons for their concerns. However, in general, safety served as the primary concern for about 84 percent of the people that AAA surveyed.

These survey results should not be all that surprising. As TechRadar notes, new technology always tends to scare people at first. Even things that are commonplace today like microwaves and airplanes once frightened the general public. In fact, people once feared the safety of “horseless carriages,” or cars, when they first hit the streets.

Still, fear rarely stops the forward march of technology. The driverless car is here, and it’s not going away. Despite some early hiccups in production and safety, Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, now tests cars in several parts of the country, according to Autoblog.

Ultimately, our Dallas car accident attorneys want you to know more about these automated vehicles – also commonly called driverless or self-driving cars – and what you should expect if you are ever in a crash that involves this new technology.

Types of Self-Driving Technology

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) breaks automated driving into six levels. Those levels are:

  • Level 0 (No automation) – As the driver, you always control the vehicle.
  • Level 1 (Driver assistance) – You have to keep your hands on the wheel, and you are always in charge of the car. Cruise control is an example of this technology.
  • Level 2 (Partial automation) – The technology controls acceleration, braking and steering. Still, you must remain alert and responsive in order to avoid problems.
  • Level 3 (Conditional automation) – The technology fully monitors the driving environment, but you stay in control of the car and can override the system at any time.
  • Level 4 (High automation) – The technology basically operates independent of you. However, the vehicle can request intervention from you at any time.
  • Level 5 (Full automation) – The vehicle is totally and completely automated and does not require you to operate the car.

Most vehicles on the road today are at Level 0 or Level 1. Tesla and Google are taking steps to move their cars into Level 2 territory.

Companies in other countries have introduced automated driving technology similar to Tesla and Google. Automotive News Europe reports that certain automated cars in Germany may fall in Level 3. However, for the most part, those other companies have adopted the same cautious and conservative approach. A human driver can still override their cars’ automated features.

Why the Push for Driverless Vehicles?

Human error accounts for most car accidents. Driverless technology aims to reduce injuries, fatalities and property losses by taking humans out of the equation – or at least reducing the impact of human error. For example, unlike a human, automated technology cannot operate a car while intoxicated or while distracted by a phone call or text message.

If humans no longer operated cars, transportation could become not only safer but also more efficient. Imagine, for instance, a truck without a driver who needs sleep or a taxi that never gets lost. It’s easy to see the benefits.

Self-Driving Car Accidents Stir Fears      

Despite the many positive aspects of driverless technology, people still fear what would happen if we take control of cars away from humans. News reports of crashes involving self-driving cars reinforce those concerns. Here are five notable wrecks that have been in the news:

  • February 2016 – A Lexus with Google-assisted driving technology collided with a bus in California.  
  • June 2016 – A man died in a Tesla self-driving vehicle crash when his car plowed into the back of a truck while going full-speed.
  • December 2016 – An automated Uber vehicle ran a red light in California, prompting legislators to restrict the vehicles’ use for the time being.
  • January 2017 – A Las Vegas passenger bus, designed to hold up to 12 people, crashed on its first day in service, according to News 3 Las Vegas.
  • September 2017 – General Motors reported that six of its so-called “self-driving” vehicles were involved in crashes in a single month, Reuters reports.

How Can Self-Driving Cars Hurt People?

Accidents that involve self-driving cars can cause car wreck injuries to both the drivers, pedestrians, and passengers in the car or others who share the road with the cars. Most safety concerns about these vehicles surrounds the reliability of the technology. If a self-driving car’s technology fails to function properly, accidents can happen. For instance, the car’s brakes may fail, its tires may blow out or its headlights may fail to shine. In some cases, the car may fail to recognize the need to stop at a red light or to slow down in heavy traffic. It may suddenly speed up, without the driver having any means to stop it.

Who Is Liable for Injuries Caused by a Driverless Car?

The law on driverless car accidents is far from settled. So, consumers should expect to see a lot of changes and potentially inconsistent court rulings during the foreseeable future. The determination of liability likely will depend on issues such as:

  • What is the car’s level of automation?
  • Did technology or a human control the car at the time of the crash?
  • Did the technology fail, or did human error cause the accident?
  • If a wreck occurred due to technology failure, was the manufacturer or driver responsible for this error?
  • If human error and technology malfunctions both contributed to the crash, should liability be shared by both the driver and the car’s manufacturer?

Every car accident is different. So, these questions will likely get answered on a case-by-case basis in Texas and other parts of the country.

Keep in mind: The laws that apply to car accidents caused by humans and those caused by defective automotive parts are different. In cases where both human error and defective driverless car technology contribute to a crash, an injured person may potentially have the right to bring both a personal injury and product liability lawsuit.  Of course, when it comes to car insurance companies and auto manufacturers, you can expect that they will always look for ways to shift blame and avoid paying costs.

Our Texas Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You

As automated driving technology improves, we should expect to see more of these cars on the road. In turn, we should expect to see more accidents that involve these cars. If you should ever be involved in a crash with a driverless car, you should seek help immediately from an attorney who understands both car accident and products liability laws and how to use those laws to seek the maximum amount for you.

The attorneys of Tate Law Offices, P.C., know how to handle even the most complex auto accident cases. If you or someone you love suffers injury in a car crash involving a driverless or automated vehicle, contact us right away to learn more about your rights. With offices in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, we make it easy for you to get the immediate help you need. We never charge for consultations, and we only get paid if you recover compensation for your injuries.