Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have become widely popular, with many Americans happily abandoning the driver’s seat to be a passenger instead. The next step for these services will be an empty driver’s seat, as self-driving vehicles are currently in the testing phase and may be hitting the streets soon. This development raises unique legal questions. In the event of a car accident involving a self-driving vehicle, who is responsible for any ensuing injuries?
Recently, a woman was fatally injured in Tempe, Arizona when she was struck by a self-driving Volvo XC90 owned by Uber. The pedestrian was walking a bicycle across a road with multiple lanes when the vehicle failed to stop. The car was in autonomous mode, but there was a human test driver in the vehicle. Video footage of the crash appears to show the driver looking away at the time of the accident.
Multiple Failures Caused Accident
The autonomous driving technology failed to respond to the pedestrian obstacle. As the video shows, the woman did not run into the road suddenly, but was making gradual progress and should have been easily detected by the software. The investigation into this fatal crash is ongoing, and will determine whether the failure occurred in the vehicle’s sensor, its decision-making algorithm, or at another point in its operation. Experts say this could be considered an edge case, meaning the circumstances are rare enough that the software will not be programmed to respond to it.
Though the vehicle was designed and manufactured by Volvo, the software is owned by Uber and is currently in development. While the software is being completed, it is being tested with a human driver in the vehicle. After the software failed to stop for the pedestrian, the driver should have intervened to prevent the collision, but also failed to act.
Self-Driving Cars Should Make Streets Safer
Human error is a factor in most motor vehicle accidents. Self-driving technology could help prevent fatalities once it is perfected. In the meantime, however, pedestrians, bicyclists, passengers, and other drivers are at risk. Even with finished software, the vehicles may still encounter these edge cases, wherein vehicles do not know how to prevent an accident.
Car accidents involving autonomous vehicles are a new problem, and it can be challenging to determine who is liable for injuries. Depending on how the accident occurred, fault may lie with the vehicle’s manufacturer, the software’s designer or programmer, the ride share company that owns the vehicle, or another party that was in some way responsible.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Obtain Compensation for Auto Accident Victims
Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of car accident cases. We understand the law and how it applies to unique situations, such as those involving autonomous technology. We are dedicated to obtaining the compensation you deserve and holding those responsible for your injuries accountable. Our legal team provides free consultations at our six office locations throughout South Carolina. Contact us at 803-929-3600 or by filling out an online contact form.
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