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Driverless Vehicles are Taking to the Road: Who Will Be Responsible For Accidents?

Technology is constantly changing. Just twenty years ago households were purchasing their first cordless phones and DVD players. Now 12 year olds have mobile phones that can stream any movie from anywhere instantly. Our cars are no different. While auto accidents still claim far too many lives, advances like the seatbelt and airbags have saved many. Now various companies are working on a whole new automotive technology--driverless cars. The hope and the theory is that by eliminating human error and recklessness, these cars will make our roads safer. Soon these vehicles will take to the road. The question then becomes, when one of these vehicles eventually causes an accident, who will be to blame?

Driverless Crash Trucks About to Take to the Road

Driverless cars have gotten a lot of news coverage in the last year, but they typically seem like a technology that is still a ways away for most Americans. However, according to a report by CBC News, certain driverless trucks are going to take to the road in Florida by the end of the year. Mobile construction crews, like those who paint the lines on roads, typically include at least two vehicles. There is the vehicle that is doing the actual construction work, and then there is a vehicle that follows that vehicle. The following vehicle is typically outfitted with a crash barrier and is designed to protect the construction vehicle. The problem with this system is that the driver of the following protector vehicle is put in harm’s way. The plan is to use driverless vehicles as the protection vehicles, eliminating this driver risk.

Driverless Vehicles are Not 100% Safe

Driverless vehicles are not 100% safe. Their ability to handle driving tasks is only as good as their programming and whatever sensors they have to obtain information to use with that programming. Additionally, as anyone who has had their social security number or credit card information compromised by any of the countless recent computer hacks knows, malicious hackers find ways to hack into almost any computerized system. Computer systems are far from flawless, so the question becomes, who do we hold responsible if these systems fail?

Who Should We Hold Responsible When Driverless Vehicles Cause Accidents?

Driverless vehicles will radically change they way the civil courts have to deal with automobile accidents. When there is no driver to hold responsible for negligence, traditional methods of resolving these cases simply will not work. Accidents caused by flaws in the computer programming or other problems with the vehicle itself will be more akin to accidents caused by other defects in the vehicle, so it seems a products liability approach may be most likely. This would involve holding the manufacturer responsible for the problem, rather than the car’s owner who likely had nothing to do with it.

But what if the problem is caused in some part by the owner’s failure to properly maintain the vehicle? Then there may still be a negligence claim. Hackers who cause accidents may be held responsible, but if they were able to hack the computer program because the manufacturer did not take proper steps to prevent hacking, then maybe we have a products liability claim again.

What if the manufacturer provided security updates, but the owner failed to install them, leaving the car vulnerable? All of these questions and more will eventually have to be litigated.

Contact Goldstein & Hayes, P.C.

If you are injured in a car accident, now or in the future, it is important to seek out the help of a forward-thinking and creative attorney like the Atlanta accident lawyers at Goldstein & Hayes, PC. Call us today at (404)869-8600.