Unveiling the Truths and Dangers of Self-Driving Cars: A Legal Perspective

driverless cars

Shane Smith here.

I am fascinated with innovations, especially when it comes to the automotive industry. I love hearing about new technologies that make cars safer, more fuel efficient and more fun to drive. One of the hottest topics in the auto industry right now is self-driving cars. This relatively new technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we travel, but these automotive innovations come with some serious safety and liability concerns.

Safety first! Maybe not with self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are allegedly safer because they reduce human error. Manufacturers state that a computer will never get distracted on the road, and since distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents across our nation, less distracted drivers mean safer roads.

The problem with this reasoning is that it doesn’t consider several important facts.

Let’s start with the obvious ones:

Self-driving cars operate best on smooth, well-defined roads with obvious markings. But what about the roads in cities and neighborhoods that are old or run down? And what about unexpected changes in the road and road conditions, like a broken traffic signal or a knocked down stop sign? Self-driving cars don’t always know what to do in these situations and occasionally make wrong and dangerous moves on the road as a result. Weather conditions like heavy rain and snow can damage laser sensors on self-driving cars causing the vehicle to misinterpret signals and road information which, again, can potentially cause a collision.

Now let’s consider a fact we all know to be true. Vehicle manufacturers don’t always get things right. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 840 vehicle recalls each year affecting over 90 million vehicles on US roads. Now here’s a scary fact: approximately 25% of all vehicle recalls in the United States were related to software issues.

What makes this worse, industry standards for self-driving cars are all over the place and the government seems unwilling or incapable of properly regulating the tech industries involved.

The auto industry is and has been highly regulated for a long time. The tech industry, by contrast, still has the feel of the wild west. There are hundreds of tech companies with a stake in the game of self-driving cars and with new innovations happening almost daily, passing laws and regulating this type of industry is virtually impossible.

Another complication with self-driving cars is that government regulations often protect carmakers from lawsuits instead of protecting drivers from faulty manufacturing. This can be seen in regulations which protect manufacturers from liability when one of their self-driving vehicles involved in a collision was not properly maintained according to manufacturer specifications.

I have a question for you. When was the last time your car was fully compliant and 100% up to date with all manufacturer recommended services? This law essentially means that if a vehicle malfunctions and kills someone, the auto manufacturer may be off the hook just because the car owner skipped an oil change or let a check engine light stay on too long.

One of the biggest challenges of personal injury claims involving self-driving cars is determining who is responsible for the accident. Was it the manufacturer of the vehicle who should be held responsible? Or did the vehicle operator cause the collision due to negligence, such as failing to properly maintain the vehicle or follow the manufacturer’s instructions?

Personal injury claims involving self-driving cars are complex and an evolving area of law. If you or someone you love is ever injured in an auto collision involving a self-driving car, please call our office immediately at 980-246-2656.

We are here for you and happy to help in every way we can.

Shane Smith

Founding Attorney of Shane Smith Law

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