What Happens When a Robot is in an Accident?
In a few decades, consumer motor vehicle operations will be a thing of the past. Planes will be self-directed, trains, and even farm equipment will be automated, and we’ll all enjoy the peace of a self-driving car. It’s a pretty appealing concept. Long road trip on the horizon? Just jump in the back seat and let your Tesla’s A.I. take the wheel.
Nissan's CEO recently stated that he expects the first self-driving vehicles to be on traditional roads by 2020, but you can already enjoy the convenience if you work at Google - which loads a ton of automated cars on their campus.
The goal is to create a safer, saner experience on America’s roadways. The human race is distracted and angry; it’s about time we pass over the reigns to a neutral, respectful autopilot program.
However, the rise of the self-driving car will open up a brand new controversy. Namely, what happens when a robot is involved in an accident? We’ve spent decades drawing up the specifics for personal injury law in vehicular collisions.
We’ve all danced with insurance companies sussing out fault, irresponsibility, and injury graveness. But how does that change when a computer is behind the wheel? It’s a complicated question, and at this point, it’s only a matter of time before we confront it head-on.
Who Is At Fault in an AI Crash?
The vast majority of accidents involving self-driving cars are not the fault of A.I. itself. The motorized, automated vehicle is following the rules of the road, and some fallible human idiot rear-ends them or merges into their lane. However, that’s not always the case. Last Valentine’s Day, a Google self-driving car slammed into a bus after it tried to negotiate a right turn.
It wasn’t a glitch, the car’s software simply made an error in judgment that caused a collision - which is a tacit confirmation that the era of the self-driving car will not be an era utterly free of car accidents. Occasionally, there will be a need to get into the legal weeds.
There’s nothing fun about being in an accident, but there is evidence to say that being involved in a collision with a self-driving car might be more beneficial to the victim than a conventional personal injury case. Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, has taught a course on the burgeoning sector of automated vehicles, and told the Associated Press that “assuming you’re not dead, you’re in a much better position than if you’d been hit by an ordinary, human-driven vehicle.”
This is because self-driving cars will shift the legal nexus away from the traditional questions that surround piloted negligence. Now, these cases are directed toward product liability. “Whereas today’s crash liability regime is based largely on the liability of individual drivers under negligence, tomorrow’s may be premised on the liability of manufacturers. So this would be under product liability broadly,” he writes in a paper called Automated Driving and Product Liability. “This shift will also create new issues for the judges and juries evaluating the resulting crash claims—as well as for the lawyers negotiating to avoid such trials.”
The reason that’s advantageous for a legal client is that you’ll be dealing directly with a corporate entity. After all, it’s difficult to prove negligence in a personal injury case. A lot of the specifics are left up to unknowable conjecture. How can you prove that a driver took his eyes off the road in an inopportune moment? Do we know for sure he was looking at a cell phone?
However, this becomes a lot easier when you’re dealing with cold hard calculations of a self-driving vehicle. If the nuts and bolts show that a car on auto-pilot miscalculated an off-ramp merge, you quickly eliminate any guesswork. There’s also speculation that the manufacturers of self-driving vehicles will want to err on the side of caution. That way, they can hand out generous settlements to keep the industry looking pristine.
Volvo, Google, and Mercedes-Benz have all already stated that they’ll take responsibility for any accidents involving their vehicles. Going to court over the specifics about a computer’s decision making doesn’t look good from the outside looking in.
That being said, there’s also a chance for the fault of a self-driving car accident to fall on the owner of the automated vehicle. Let’s say an accident happens because a self-driving car’s tire blows out and swerves into traffic, and after an investigation, it’s clear that the tire in question needed to be changed for a long time. In that case, the fault may fall to the pilot.
It’s a pretty easy defense to claim a driver wasn’t maintaining the proper conditions necessary to keep an automated vehicle safe. But again, that discretion will be left to a judge. Yet, this is all speculative. Despite all the money being poured into the self-driving industry, the legal jurisdiction is still lost in the Wild West.
In a few decades, enough legislation and precedents will be passed to outline the specifics of the status quo, but until then, your best bet is to get a good lawyer and hope for a big settlement.
Need a civil injury lawyer closer to you? Reach out to a:Bus Accident lawyer in Newport Beach, CA, Redondo Beach Bicycle Pathway Accident Lawyers, Marina del Rey, CA accident lawyers near you.
Practice Area Information
- 15 Passenger Van Accident Attorney
- Amtrak Injury Attorney
- Armored Vehicles
- ATV Injuries
- Auto "Turo" Accident
- Auto Door Latch Defects
- Auto Loaner Accident
- Auto Rental Accident
- Bad Weather Motorcycle Accidents
- Basic Evidence Gathering in a Vehicular Negligence Claim
- Bicycle Crash FAQs
- Bicycle Defects
- Bicycle Laws
- Big Rig Truck Accident
- Birth Injury
- Black Box Truck Accident Lawsuits
- Brain Injury
- Broken Ankle Attorney
- Broken Pelvis Attorney
- Bus Accident
- California Hit and Run
- California Motorcycle Attorneys
- Car Accident - Negligent Entrustment
- Car Accidents
- Catastrophic Injury
- Chemical Burns & Explosions
- Child Bicycle Passengers
- Church Bus Accident Attorney
- Climate - Bad Weather Road Debris
- Climate - Rainy Day Accident
- Cold Tire Motorcycle Accidents
- Common Bicycle Injuries
- Common Motorcycle Rider Injuries
- Construction Accident
- Crush Injury
- Defective Automobile
- Defective Baby Seat
- Defective Brakes
- Defective Glass Claims
- Defective Seat-Backs
- Distracted Eating and Driving
- Dust Fires & Explosions
- Electric Vehicle Accident
- Electrocution Burns
- FedEx Truck Accidents
- Gas Tank Explosion
- Getting Paid Money For Riding Injuries
- Glossary Trucking Law Terms
- Government Claims - Cal Trans Accidents
- GrubHub Accidents
- Head on Collisions
- Insurance Dispute Lawyers
- Insurance Q & A Video
- L.A. and U.S. Traffic Accident Statistics
- Left Hand Turn Accidents
- Michael P. Ehline Bicycle Attorney
- Military Bus Accident Attorney
- Motor Vehicle Burns and Smoke
- Motor Vehicle Ejections
- Motorcycle Accident Statistics
- Motorcycle Defects
- Motorcycle Head On Collisions
- Motorcycle Hit And Run Accidents in L.A.
- Motorcycle Left Hand Turn Accidents
- Motorcycle Speeding Collisions
- Motorcycle Spinal Cord Injuries
- Open Car Door Injuries
- Orthopaedic Injury
- Oxygen Tank Injury Attorney in Southern California
- Parking Structure Incident Attorney
- Postal Truck Accident
- Prison Bus Accident Attorney
- Product Defect & Recall
- Recreactional Duck Boat Accidents
- Rental Car Reimbursment
- Ridesharing - Limousine Accidents
- Ridesharing - Lyft Accidents
- Ridesharing - Uber Accident
- School Bus Accident
- Segway Recalls
- Seven Most Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident
- Side Swipes and Lane Changes
- Snapchat Distracted Driving
- Soft Tissue Cases
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Sudden Stop Motorcycle Collisions
- SUV Rollover
- T-Bone Broadside Accidents
- Tanker Truck
- Taxi Cab Injury
- Teen Driver Accidents
- Tips: Left Hand Turn Crash Avoidance
- Tour Bus Accident Attorney
- Tow Truck Injuries
- Traffic Accident - DUI/Drunk Driver