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Who’s at Fault in a Driverless Car Accident?

In a typical car accident, it’s usually not difficult to determine who’s liable. But what happens when one of the vehicles is controlled by a computer rather than a human? Is the human operator or the car’s manufacturer to blame? Get all the facts before heading back out on the road.

Unique Factors of a Driverless Car Accident

Automated vehicles, driverless automobiles, self-driving cars. These new vehicles have a lot of names, and they’re becoming more prevalent on the road. As they gain popularity, state governments, car manufacturers, and insurers are all trying to determine who would be responsible in the event of a car accident involving a driverless car. While we’ve got the rules down pat for ordinary car accidents, many more factors come into play when talking about driverless car accidents.

The good news is that automated car accidents don’t happen very often. In a study published by Axios, researchers found that there were only 34 reported accidents involving self-driving cars during a four-year span in California, and most of them happened when a human rear-ended or bumped into a driverless car stopped at a red light or driving at a low speed.

In the rare situation that a driverless car accident does happen, the party at fault depends on the accident’s unique factors — namely if there was a design flaw in the automation system or if the human operator was distracted and did not take control of the vehicle when the car prompted them to.

  • Design flaw in the driverless car’s automated system. While official conclusions have yet to be drawn about Uber’s fatal self-driving car crash in March 2018 that killed a pedestrian, it was found that the vehicle’s emergency braking maneuvers were disabled while the car was being controlled by a computer, as stated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

  • Distracted driver. Many autonomous vehicles require their operators to either keep one hand on the wheel or provide frequent touch inputs onto the wheel in an effort to prevent the driver from falling into passive fatigue. Unfortunately, this is not a fool-proof method, as some drivers tend to look at their phone or engage in other distracting activities when not actively operating the vehicle. This happened in 2016 when the NTSB determined the driver of an autonomous vehicle was partially the cause of a fatal car accident when the driver’s “inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation … resulted in the car driver's lack of reaction to the presence of [a] truck.”

How We Can Help

Car accidents involving driverless cars are a rare occurrence right now, but will likely become more frequent in the future as more of them enter the roadways. If you do get into a car accident with a driverless car, our Oxnard car accident lawyers are here to help. We have successfully secured millions of dollars on behalf of clients involved in car accidents, and we’re here to fight for you.

If your car accident was caused by a reckless or distracted driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Don’t wait; contact Crane Flores, LLP at (805) 628-4967 for a complimentary case evaluation.