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Understanding Self-Driving Pedestrian Accident Cases in California

Understanding Self-Driving Pedestrian Accident Cases in California


Understanding Self-Driving Pedestrian Accident Cases in California

No one is a newer motorist than a self-driving car manufacturer in terms of time in, grade, and burgeoning tech. Recently, however, taxi- and rideshare-based businesses began experimenting with autonomous vehicles for passenger transport between places. As autonomous vehicles have increased on roads, the chances of an accidental crash have increased. Most at risk is the pedestrian or bicyclist hit by a driverless car with no back up driver to offer assistance.

For example, in March 2018, one of Uber’s experimental self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. While this was the first fatal accident of its kind, many companies, including GM, Uber, Tesla Motors, and Google’s Alphabet, are still heavily investing in fully autonomous cars, trucks, and passenger buses. It doesn’t take a law professor to tell you there is an obvious bias here. These cash-cow projects are getting political approval from politicians. Big tech pays heavy campaign donations, much to the chagrin of Los Angeles personal injury attorney Michael Ehline and his team of aggressive injury warriors.

Dangers of Self-Driving Cars to Pedestrians and Cyclists?

While self-driving cars can revolutionize transportation by reducing human error behind the steering wheel, they can also improve traffic flow and overall safety. But these benefits can also bring forth significant challenges that generally need to be addressed along with green technology.

When cars drive without a driver, cyclists, and pedestrians risk being caught by:

  • The unpredictability of Autonomous Vehicles: Self-driving cars lack the familiar cues that pedestrians and cyclists use to interpret the intentions of human drivers. This can lead to confusion and uncertainty when attempting to interact with autonomous vehicles at intersections and crosswalks.
  • Sensor and Technology Limitations: Autonomous vehicles rely on sensors and algorithms to navigate their environment. However, these systems can fail to accurately detect pedestrians and cyclists, and even construction zones, leading to dangerous situations where the vehicle doesn’t respond appropriately to their presence.
  • Lack of Standardized Communication: Another critical concern is the lack of standardized communication between self-driving cars and pedestrians/cyclists. Manufacturers are working on incorporating external communication methods, such as light signals or displays, to convey vehicle intentions. Still, until these methods are universally adopted and understood, there remains a risk of misinterpretation and accidents. While efforts are being made to incorporate external communication methods like lights and displays to indicate vehicle intentions, a lack of standardized communication can result in pedestrians and cyclists misinterpreting the actions of self-driving cars.
  • Coexistence with Human-Operated Vehicles: During the transition period where both self-driving and human-operated vehicles share the road, the unpredictable behavior of human drivers can create challenges. Pedestrians and cyclists might make assumptions about how autonomous vehicles will behave, which could lead to accidents caused by human drivers’ actions.

To address these risks and ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, it is crucial to focus on improving technology, educating the public, enhancing infrastructure, and establishing effective regulations for autonomous vehicles.

Why This Remains So Important?

Prominent entities such as Google, General Motors (GM), Uber, and Baidu are channeling substantial investments into the advancement of self-driving vehicle technology. This technological frontier holds the potential to trigger a profound metamorphosis, not solely within the automotive industry but across the broader realms of transportation and urban infrastructure. Beyond its implications for personal automobiles, self-driving technology is undergoing trials within the domains of taxi services and public transit, such as buses. Consequently, the proliferation of autonomous vehicles, spanning various sizes and catering to diverse functions, appears exceedingly plausible within the foreseeable future.

The paramount significance of the safety and dependability of the mechanisms underpinning these autonomous systems cannot be overstated. This pertinence extends beyond safeguarding the welfare of conventional drivers and passengers; tragically evidenced by the fatal incident involving Elaine Ramos, it acquires a heightened dimension of importance in guaranteeing the safety of pedestrians. This incident serves as a poignant reminder that the progression and deployment of self-driving vehicles should be underpinned by rigorous scrutiny, robust testing, and unwavering commitment to achieving the highest safety and reliability standards.

Some Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires automakers to report accidents linked to autonomous vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) at Level 2 (partial automation) or higher.

From July 1, 2021, to May 15, 2022, a total of 392 self-driving vehicles were reported under this scheme. Around 70% implicated Tesla vehicles equipped with either the “Tesla Autopilot” system or their more advanced “full self-driving” beta system. Another 90 crashes occurred involving Honda vehicles.

What Happened With the Ramos Uber Accident?

A recent report released by the National Transportation Safety Board has shed light on the tragic incident involving Elaine Ramos as she was out and about. As recounted in the report, Ms. Ramos was walking her bicycle across the street during the night when she was struck by a self-driving car. The report provides a detailed account of the events, revealing that the car’s detection system had identified her presence six seconds prior to the collision, which proved fatal.

Approximately one second before the collision occurred, the car’s system registered the need to engage the brakes. However, a noteworthy revelation from the NTSB indicates that Uber’s self-driving system had not been configured to act upon this decision. As stated by the engineers, the rationale behind this configuration choice was to mitigate the potential for abrupt and unpredictable vehicle behavior. In essence, the system was intentionally designed not to “overreact” to situations that, from its perspective, did not pose imminent threats. This deliberate approach aimed to prevent sudden and possibly hazardous reactions, such as sudden braking, that could inadvertently lead to further accidents.

The report’s findings underscore the intricate balance that engineers and developers must navigate when designing self-driving systems. While the goal is to ensure that autonomous vehicles respond intelligently and safely to their surroundings, the challenge lies in striking a harmonious equilibrium between avoiding unnecessary risks and responding promptly to potential dangers. This incident serves as a poignant reminder of the nuanced decisions involved in shaping the behavior of self-driving cars, as they aim to prioritize both passenger and road shoulder and sidewalk user safety.

Other Self-Driving Pedestrian Accident Examples?

Recently Cruise agreed to cut its robotaxi fleet by half in San Francisco after it was revealed that a driverless robotaxi crashed into a fire truck in San Francisco. Part of the risk here is that emergency vehicles may confuse the sensors, their lights, etc.

How does the Law protect Pedestrians?

In California, pedestrians hold a legal advantage over self-driving vehicles regarding the right of way. Whether a driver is a human or a self-driving car, these vehicles must be operated with reasonable care to prevent harming others. Failing to do so can lead to a determination of negligence on the driver’s part. Unfortunately, many instances of passerby injuries from autonomous cars in California arise from speeding, disregarding traffic signals, or neglecting to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.

Drivers who neglect to signal turns or fail to exercise heightened caution around places like schools, playgrounds, and residential areas also contribute to pedestrian accidents. These motor vehicle accident scenarios are relevant to self-driving cars.

When self-driving car technology companies fail to ensure the safety of their vehicles’ pedestrian detection systems, they might be held accountable for injuries or fatalities resulting from their negligence. In essence, the same principles that apply to human drivers also extend to self-driving vehicles, emphasizing the importance of self-driving car technology developers ensuring the safety of their autonomous systems to prevent harm to pedestrians. Let’s take a look at self-driving vehicle accident liability principles.

What if a Self-Driving Car Hits and Kills an Urban Walker?

In the modern-day world, most cars are covered by auto insurance. You could file a claim against the car’s manufacturer for wrongful death. Each situation is unforeseeable. If there was a collision of several vehicles, many parties are potentially liable. Suppose the decedent was injured due to an electrical engine failure or fire that malfunctioned the automobile, leading to death. You must get a professional and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to examine your situation and advise you on how to proceed. Contact someone who can explain everything today by calling Ehline Law at (213) 596-9642.

Why Do Injured Pedestrians Need a Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyer?

Some people think hiring a lawyer to represent them is unnecessary; or “it’s not worth it.” But that’s not true; unrepresented parties get paid less based on studies. We will protect your rights in the courts, particularly in the evolving field of driverless cars and their adverse effects on human life and property. The same technology designed for these cars to prevent a rear-end collision should also spot people walking around the autonomous car with or without a backup driver aboard. If not, accidents involving pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and bikers occur, just as they would with manned, conventional vehicles.

Injured pedestrians may benefit from hiring a self-driving car accident lawyer for several important reasons:

  1. Complex Liability Issues: Determining liability for serious injuries caused by self-driving car accidents can be intricate due to advanced technology, multiple parties, and varying degrees of responsibility. An experienced attorney can navigate the complex legal landscape to identify who is at fault and responsible for compensating the injured street-crosser in partial or fully autonomous mode. Car manufacturers are an obviously deep pocket, but maintenance shops and dealerships can also be on the hook to pay financial damages due to their negligence in warning, preparing, or even re-manufacturing.
  2. Expertise in Autonomous Technology: Self-driving car accident lawyers possess knowledge about the intricacies of autonomous vehicle technology and its potential impact on vehicular manslaughter accidents. This helps plaintiffs build a strong case by understanding how the technology works, its possible contribution to the accident, and human error during normal driving tasks.
  3. Investigation and Evidence: Lawyers specializing in self-driving traffic accidents have the resources and experience to investigate the incident thoroughly (Ex: The history of a particular Tesla model, etc.). They can gather crucial evidence, such as data from sensors and cameras, and vehicle logs from the car’s owner. They can also seek out expert opinions to establish liability in support of the pedestrian’s claims of a deadly autopilot mode, etc. Or, for example, it may be discovered that the plaintiff was partially at fault or distracted in failing to stay out of harm’s way (Pure Comparative Negligence). All this helps your lawyer value the case and any surprises the defense could spring at trial.
  4. Negotiation and Advocacy: A skilled driverless pedestrian accident lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies, self-driving technology developers, and other involved parties to ensure that the injured wayfarer receives fair compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages suffered along California roads.
  5. Legal Strategy: Professional lawyers understand the nuances of self-driving features and can develop a customized legal strategy tailored to the unique circumstances of each case. They can anticipate potential challenges and develop effective solutions in driverless technology cases involving Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Ford, Honda, Tesla, and more.
  6. Navigating Regulations: Autonomous vehicle accidents, especially in crowded Southern California, may involve intricate legal and regulatory considerations. A lawyer familiar with these regulations can guide injured pedestrians or a wounded human driver or passenger through the process. This will be a team member you can trust to ensure your rights are protected when hurt in product liability cases involving driverless vehicles.
  7. Maximizing Compensation: Self-driving car accident lawyers work to maximize the compensation their clients receive. Ehline Law will fairly, diligently, and accurately assess contributing factors and the full extent of damages, including long-term medical care, physical rehabilitation, and lost future earnings when accidents occur.
  8. Litigation Experience: A self-driving car accident lawyer can represent the injured pedestrian in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation. Their litigation experience strengthens the pedestrian’s chances of securing a favorable outcome for accident cases involving our public roads.
  9. Peace of Mind: Dealing with the aftermath of a self-driving car accident as a footpath user recovering from injuries can be overwhelming. Hiring a lawyer allows the injured walker to focus on their recovery while a legal professional handles the complexities of the case.

Steps to Save Lives v. A Self-Driving Car

To be able to mitigate some dangers, pedestrians, cities, and car makers can take several measures.

  1. Improving the autonomous vehicle technology behind self-driving cars. Sensors, algorithms, and communication systems should be refined to ensure accurate and reliable performance in various scenarios. Additionally, public education campaigns are necessary to inform pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers about the capabilities and limitations of autonomous vehicles wherever they operate.
  2. Prioritize foot traveler and cyclist safety within urban planning, etc. Dedicated lanes, clear signage, and well-designed intersections can contribute to safer interactions between autonomous vehicles and vulnerable people walking around outside. Policymakers will play a crucial role in establishing regulations that promote safety while holding manufacturers accountable for the performance of their self-driving car models across the country for killing and maiming people.

In recent years, California and Arizona self-driving car accidents have demonstrated the potential to make our roads safer is still questionable. The transition to this technology must be carefully managed to avoid further endangering pedestrians and cyclists. By addressing predictability, communication, technology refinement, education, and infrastructure issues, we can work toward a future where autonomous vehicles and vulnerable road users coexist harmoniously with Google, the “digital god.”

Will this ultimately be a good or bad deal for your insurance company? Maybe if it ends driver distraction cases (cell phones, texting, etc.). But if being engaged in self-driving mode comes with a new set of catastrophes, then maybe not. So look for a rise, and pay attention to avoid becoming a personal injury client with an axe to grind.

Should You Make That Call?

Yes! Do you agree with us that the tech isn’t yet ready or safe? Or should the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) permit these rolling test beds with system failures on public roads? Injured pedestrians involved in self-driving car accidents can greatly benefit from the expertise and support of a self-driving car accident lawyer at Ehline Law. These compassionate, aware, and caring lawyers have been operating since 2005 in California. They are equipped to address the unique challenges posed by autonomous technology and help injured pedestrians pursue fair compensation for their injuries and losses.

What Should You Do if You Are Injured or if a Loved One is Killed by a Self-Driving Vehicle?

If you are the victim of a highway emergency, dial 9-1-1. If you were injured or a loved one was killed by a car collision, whether driven by a human or self-driving, you must know all your options after getting emergency treatment at the hospital. We have learned that technology needs improvement and that you could be injured while out minding your own business by a robotic car or even drone. Understanding pedestrian injury claims can be complicated in order to prove your self-driving car accident case. Employees may have additional disability payment rights.

Hence, it is extremely important for you and your family to be in the best position possible to recover enough compensation in these situations. The leading California personal injury attorneys at Ehline Law are experienced in bringing a variety of pedestrian injury claims against defendants in Silicon Valley and beyond. We will focus our full attention on you and make the negligent parties at blame pay up for at-fault collisions! Contact Ehline Law today to learn more about your legal options by using webmail or dialing (213) 596-9642 for a free consultation. We hope to win your trust and make a big settlement on your behalf along the way.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.