Questions Emerge About the Safety of Self-Driving Cars and the Liability of Manufacturers and Drivers

As self-driving and partially self-driving cars begin to become more common, questions about safety and liability arise. Self-driving cars have been touted as safer than regular cars because they reduce driver error. However, others worry that relying on software and technology brings a different kind of risk. Some drivers have claimed that the self-driving cars behave erratically, for example by failing to recognize cars stopped in front of them.

Push StartThere are also questions about who is liable when a crash occurs. Manufacturers have generally required buyers to agree to keep their hands on the steering wheel, even when the car is on autopilot. But if a product malfunctions and causes a crash, the manufacturer might be to blame. As fully self-driving cars inch closer to reality, these questions will no doubt play out in courts across the country.

New Details Emerge About 2016 Semi-Truck and Tesla Autopilot Crash

New details about a fatal 2016 Tesla autopilot crash have recently emerged. According to one news source, the crash, which occurred in May 2016, involved a collision between a semi-truck and a Tesla Model S, which was on autopilot with a driver inside. It was the first known crash that occurred while autopilot was activated. The Tesla driver had been driving in Florida when a truck made a left turn in front of the car. The car went under the truck, hitting the bottom of the trailer, and the car then went off the road and crashed. The roof was torn off the car, and the driver was killed.

After the accident, Tesla stated that the autopilot system did not recognize the white side of the trailer against a brightly lit sky. The car was a Level 2 self-driving system, which meant that the driver is expected to monitor the system and take over at a given time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the driver had at least seven seconds to see the trailer and react.

The National Transportation Safety Board has led a thorough investigation of the crash since it occurred, and it recently released new details. The car had been driving at 74 mph when it crashed. It found that during the last 41 minutes of the driver’s trip, the car had been in autopilot for 37.5 minutes. The driver had his hands off the wheel for 37 minutes during that time. The car displayed a visual warning telling the driver to “hold the steering wheel” seven times during the trip, six of which were followed by auditory warnings.

Some claim that the autopilot performed as it was designed and that crashes have occurred because of the drivers’ confusion about the system’s responsibility. The NHTSA has expressed that drivers have to be continually and fully attentive with hands on the wheel even when self-driving features are engaged.

Contact a New Mexico Personal Injury Attorney

At the Fine Law Firm, we handle car accident cases as well as other serious personal injury cases. Our Albuquerque personal injury attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing injury law. We provide an aggressive legal voice to each of our clients, while treating them with respect, care, and attention. Our firm does not charge for an initial consultation. To set up a free consultation, fill out our online form or call us at 800-640-6590.

More Blog Posts:

The Dangers of Distracted Driving on New Mexico Roads, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2017.

Apportioning Liability in New Mexico Personal Injury Lawsuits, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 17, 2017.