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Who is Liable for Collisions Involving Self-Driving Cars?

March 29, 2024
Collisions Involving Self-Driving Cars

In a typical car accident, the at-fault driver and their insurance company must pay for the damages, but what happens when the at-fault driver is a self-driving car? If you were hit by a self-driving car, liability becomes far more complex. 

More than 21,000 automated driving systems hit the road in 2023. While driverless cars are meant to eliminate accidents caused by human error, vehicle collisions are still occurring. 

Potential Liable Parties in a Self-Driving Vehicle Collision

As with any other collision, the first step in determining liability is understanding which party caused the collision. If the self-driving vehicle carries any liability for the accident, you will need to determine who the liable party for the vehicle is. The potential liable parties in a self-driving car crash include the following:

The Human Operator

While self-driving vehicles are supposed to control themselves, that doesn’t mean the human operator holds zero accountability for accidents occurring under their account. Human operators may assume liability, depending on the vehicle’s level of automation and the details of the accident. Levels of automation, based on the Society of Automotive Engineers, include the following:

  •     Level 0: No automation (the driver must control everything)
  •     Level 1: Minimal assistance, like power brakes or steering
  •     Level 2: Partial automation, like cruise control
  •     Level 3: Operates without driver control, but the driver must be vigilant and take control when necessary
  •     Level 4: Operates without requiring driver interventions, but the driver can take control when necessary
  •     Level 5: Operates without any driver and may not even have a steering wheel or pedals

Based on the scale above, if you were hit by a Level 3 or 4 vehicle, the driver could be at fault for not taking control and hitting the brakes. Conversely, a Level 5 vehicle may not even have a human operator, meaning the manufacturer or another party could be to blame. Your self-driving car accident attorney can help you understand the differentials. 

The Vehicle Manufacturer

As with any other collision, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable if a malfunction caused the accident. In self-driving vehicles, malfunctions may be more common because of the technology required to maintain safe and functional automated driving systems. 

For example, if you were stopped at a red light and a Level 5 self-driving vehicle with no human operator rear-ended you, the vehicle’s sensing mechanisms may have malfunctioned, causing it to not brake in time. 

A Component Designer or Manufacturer

Many manufacturers develop vehicles using software and components from third-party companies. If the accident resulted from a third-party component failure, that designer or manufacturer could be held liable for the accident rather than the vehicle manufacturer. 

Related Third Parties

Numerous third parties could be held liable for self-driving vehicle collisions, depending on the details of your case. 

For example, if an auto shop recently performed poor repairs on the self-driving vehicle, ultimately causing it to malfunction, they could be liable. If external forces, like unsafe construction conditions or negligent road repairs, caused the accident, the local government or property owner could be to blame. 

Were You Involved in a Self-Driving Vehicle Collision? Seek Representation Today

If you were hit by an automated vehicle, let our car accident attorneys at Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C. help you determine your options to pursue compensation. For a consultation with an automated car accident lawyer, call us at (800) 433-2408.