Driverless Cars: What You Should Do in an Accident with One

Considering drivers cause up to 94 percent of car crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the move toward relying on cars that are automated or "driverless" makes sense for safety reasons. While these types of vehicles still require a "driver"'s hands to be on the wheel and that the driver is ready to take over the actual driving at any time during the ride, car automation provides features such as:

  • Radar sensors that monitor nearby vehicles, road edges and lane markings
  • Video cameras to detect obstacles, other vehicles and pedestrians, as well as to read road signs and traffic lights
  • Wheel sensors that detect curb position and other vehicles
  • A central computer that analyzes data from sensors and cameras to control braking, steering and acceleration

An increase in urban populations, developments of public transportation systems like light rails, and concern for environmental factors like pollution also contribute to the trend toward less car ownership and the use of driverless cars as a service. A March 2017 deal where Intel purchased driverless car technology Mobileye for $15.3 billion bolsters momentum for automated car technology. Research by McKinsey & Company projects up to 15 percent of new cars sold in 2030 may be fully autonomous, and by 2050, one-third of new cars sold may be shared vehicles.

Self-driving cars are on the road in growing numbers, as the technology is being tested by everyone from Waymo to Uber. If you are in an accident with one, it is vital to contact a lawyer, to protect your rights and secure the compensation for damage you deserve. Here's what you need to know.

Driverless Cars Still Pose a Threat

Since the prevalence of self-driving cars has no signs of slowing down, insurers, lawyers, manufacturers, drivers and governments around the globe are all closely looking at the market to examine how accidents are handled and who is at fault. In 2016, the first confirmed fatality involving a self-driving car occurred in Florida, where a driver using the "Autopilot" automated system of a Tesla S sports car collided with a truck. A family in China sued Tesla in 2016 for the death of a man killed earlier in the year, claiming that the Autopilot feature also failed and caused his death. The Florida fatality caused an investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, showing that self-driving technology and vehicle manufacturers are under close scrutiny as they work to bring mass-production of these vehicles to market.

Currently, most self-driving technology, such as Cadillac's Super Cruise, comes with mandates that drivers must still remain alert while the vehicle is in motion and be ready to take over driving because of environmental changes. Tesla is already producing all its new cars with self-driving hardware installed, and the manufacturer claims no liability for accidents while the car is in self-driving mode. Volvo, conversely, is one of the first manufacturers to promise to accept full liability if a car is involved in a crash while it is in autonomous mode. Drivers may still bear most of the responsibility in some crashes, though federal investigations, pending lawsuits and manufacturer developments may evolve future accountability.

Actions to Take in a Driverless Car Cras

While driverless cars may be different than most you're used to, the steps you should take after an accident with one are similar to those of crashes with traditional cars. If you're the driver of a car with automated features, these steps outlined by a car accident attorney in Birmingham, Alabama also apply:

  • Contact authorities, do not admit fault, and do not sign anything. While you should talk to police and file a report if there are property or physical damages, do not discuss accident details with anyone besides an attorney or doctor.
  • Document the accident. Take note of what happened, gather personal and vehicle information from the other driver, and shoot photos of injuries and damage. Write down details as soon as you can after the crash, and keep them in a safe place to discuss with your attorney.
  • Report the crash to your insurance company, but do not provide a statement. While you should file a claim immediately, do not disclose details without the consent of your attorney.

Contacting an attorney when you are involved in a crash with a driverless car, or any car where in-vehicle technology was being used by the driver, is essential for your protection. If the driver was distracted by the car technology, they may be liable for the accident. If the vehicle's technology was faulty, that may present the opportunity for a lawsuit against the car manufacturer. Simply filing a claim may not be enough to secure you the damages you deserve and to safeguard other drivers on the road who may be involved in a similar accident in the future.

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