Self-Driving Car Crashes: Who Is at Fault?

Until the past few years, vehicles have always required human drivers to be in full control at all times. When a crash happened, a human was usually to blame, and that human could be held liable if other people were injured.

But technology is changing the nature of driving. Cars are starting to have self-driving capabilities. This raises the question of who is at fault when a self-driving car gets into an accident in Texas.

Understanding What “Self-Driving” Really Means

First, we should all realize that true self-driving cars are still many years away. Despite all the marketing hype, every car on the market today still requires a great deal of driver input.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) publishes a scale that breaks vehicles out into various levels of self-driving capability. As of mid2023, no mass market vehicle reaches any higher than level 2:

  • Level 0: No automation; traditional vehicles where the driver does everything.
  • Level 1: The driver does almost everything, but the vehicle can provide some minor assistance or warnings, such as an audible lane-departure warning.
  • Level 2: Vehicles contain features that allow for partial automation of steering, braking and acceleration. GM’s BlueCruise is a current example of Level 2 technology.
  • Level 3: Vehicles at this level autonomously handle all driving tasks. However, the driver must be alert and ready to take over.
  • Level 4: The car can perform all driving and navigation tasks. Drivers do not need to be ready to take control. Level 4 vehicles are limited to certain geographic locations (service areas) that they cannot leave.
  • Level 5: Fully automated vehicles that can operate without a driver. People in the vehicle can sleep or watch movies. The vehicle can drive itself in all weather conditions on all roadways. The vehicle might not even have a gas pedal.

Autonomous Vehicle Crashes and Injuries: An Evolving Area of Responsibility

With autonomous driving capabilities being so new and advancing every day, there are plenty of unanswered questions about who is liable in a car crash. As it stands, liability could be placed with one or more parties, including:

  • Human driver: All so-called self-driving cars on the road today still require a person to be in control, so that person could be negligent. For example, a driver may have had the self-driving system on and then failed to take over control when the system failed, leading to a crash.
  • Manufacturer: Self-driving vehicles are still machines, and that means they’re made of thousands of parts. Poorly designed or manufactured parts can fail, including brakes, steering components and any number of other parts. These defects could make the manufacturer liable for injuries caused by a wreck.
  • Software developer: The software that powers self-driving cars isn’t perfect. It can malfunction. It could fail to see a pedestrian and run them over. Such failures could mean the developer bears some liability.

Contact a Dallas Injury Lawyer About Self-Driving Car Crashes

At The Fell Law Firm, our attorneys are here to help anyone injured in any type of auto accident, including those involving self-driving cars. Call 972-450-1418 or email us to arrange a free consultation with a member of our Dallas-Fort Worth legal team.

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