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How is Liability Assessed for an Accident with an Autonomous Vehicle?

Posted on behalf of Anderson Cummings on Mar 22, 2021 in Auto Accidents

self-driving carAt some point in our lifetimes, we may see fully autonomous vehicles on the road. Even though we are not there yet, automakers continue to add self-driving features to their vehicles.

When one of these vehicles is involved in a crash, those involved may have questions about whether the manufacturer bears any responsibility.  

There are a few factors to consider when determining fault for a crash involving a vehicle whose self-driving features were engaged at the time of the crash. The car accident lawyers in Fort Worth at Anderson Cummings are prepared to review your claim to help you determine responsibility for the accident.   

Levels of Vehicle Automation

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines six levels of driving automation. The U.S. Department of Transportation uses these classifications as well.

Level 0 – No Driving Automation

Vehicles in this classification only provide limited assistance to the driver, such as an automatic transmission or automatic braking system. Most vehicles on U.S roadways fit this classification.

Level 1 – Driver Assistance

These vehicles feature a single automated system for driver assistance, like lane departure censors or cruise control. Level one automation vehicles may also have adaptive cruise control, which accelerates or decelerates to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.

Level 2 – Partial Driving Automation

These vehicles have Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that control things like steering and acceleration/deceleration. However, these vehicle require the driver to be ready to take control at any point. Tesla and General Motors both have vehicles that fit this classification.

Level 3 – Conditional Driving Automation

Environmental detection capabilities set these vehicles apart. These vehicles can make informed decisions about things like accelerating to take over a slower-moving vehicle in another lane. However, drivers are still able to override these features. Drivers must remain alert and ready to take over if something should go wrong.

Level 4 – High Driving Automation

Levels three and four are relatively the same, except that vehicle automation systems in level four can intervene if things go wrong or if there is a system failure. Because of this, these vehicles often do not require a driver, but a human may still override the system.  

Level 5 – Full Driving Automation

These vehicles do not require any human interaction or attention. Experts say that level five automated vehicles will likely not even have steering wheels or acceleration/braking pedals. Passengers are likely to have much more space.  

It is important to note that vehicles at this level of automation are not commercially available anywhere in the U.S., but they are being tested in some places.

Determining Liability

While there are many vehicles on the road that are partially automated, none are fully automated. It may be very difficult to hold a manufacturer liable for a crash. Most crashes are caused by driver error, which means a driver is likely to be held liable.

Human Error

The vast majority of motor vehicle accidents are caused by human error. That means either the driver of the automated vehicle, a pedestrian or another driver is probably going to be found at fault for the accident.

If the driver in the automated vehicle was not paying attention to his or her surroundings when another vehicle crashed into it, the driver of the automated vehicle could be found at least partially at fault. The other driver could argue that the accident could have been avoided if the driver of the automated vehicle was paying attention.

Manufacturer Error

Car crashes are sometimes caused by mechanical failures, and some of these failures may be because of defective design or other similar issues.

However, it can be much more difficult to pin liability on a manufacturer than it is to assign liability to a driver. Can a software developer be found at fault for a system failure? Is the hardware manufacturer liable?

Have More Questions? Call Today

Car crash claims can become complicated for many reasons. That is why having an experienced attorney on your side is so important. Anderson Cummings has more than 50 years of combined experience helping crash victims.  

We offer a free consultation and charge you nothing while we work on your claim.

Call today: (877) 920-9009