What Will Happen When a Self-Driving Car Causes a Fatality?

Posted on March 17, 2016 at 12:00pm by

It was inevitable. After many years and millions of miles driven by Google’s fleet of self-driving cars, one of them has finally caused an automobile accident.

Close-up car accident

It was not a huge accident – the car was only moving at 2 mph when it struck a city bus in California. Nobody was hurt, except, perhaps, the self-driving car’s robot ego.

People in the technology field and in public safety organizations have lauded Google’s self-driving cars for their impeccable safety record, but the record has been shattered. Though no one was hurt, this incident begs the question: What if someone was hurt due to a self-driving car?

What if someone was killed by one?

Liability for Self-Driving Cars

Because self-driving cars are so new, we can only extrapolate current laws to determine who would be liable for an accident caused by the actions of a self-driving car.

One argument says that the company that produced the car and the algorithms that control it would be responsible. After all, if the driver had no manual control, how could they be blamed for a fatal accident? This argument makes sense, but might not necessarily hold up. Perhaps the driver failed to maintain the vehicle properly; self-driving cars will need new types of maintenance to ensure they function safely. If the driver fails to maintain the vehicle, it could potentially be the driver’s fault if a fatality occurs.

Victims of automobile accidents in New Jersey should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if damages might be available.


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