Car Accidents, Driverless Vehicles, and Liability

driverless carCar accidents happen every minute of the day.  Injuries result and usually, one or the other driver is found to be at fault.

This may change when Uber introduces driverless cars.

When Uber began competing with taxis all over the world for a slice of the ride sharing market, it was hailed by consumers as safer, more efficient, and a better overall experience.  Taxi cab drivers of course had a different opinion, seeing in the brash new start-up a threat to their livelihood.

Now, Uber is developing technology to introduce driverless vehicles.  In some countries, the driverless car experiment has become a reality.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will test the new driverless cars in a few weeks.  According to one media outlet, “Pittsburgh residents hailing Uber rides could soon find themselves getting into a car without a driver. The ride-hailing company will begin testing autonomous vehicles in the Steel City in a few weeks, starting with a handful of cars, then working up to a fleet of 100 Fords and Volvos.”

Yet as with all new technology, there are serious questions that should be asked about safety, efficiency, and the effect on the economy.  Additionally, lawyers will be confronted with liability issues such as who is liable when a driverless car causes a car accident that results in injuries?

Although there is no driver in the driverless Uber, there still will be liability on the part of the Uber corporation for any damages caused by the negligence of the vehicle. Uber would be liable for owning the vehicle that caused the crash. And in addition to that they would be liable if the car malfunctioned and caused an accident. Finally, there would be liability on the part of the manufacturer of the vehicle if if it was defective in design or implementation.

Driverless vehicles that cause auto accidents would still face civil liability, although other factors such as driver impairment from the use of alcohol or drugs would not be factors in such cases.  New technology such as driverless vehicles may indeed provide many benefits but they are still subject to motor vehicle laws.  When they cause accidents, the owners and manufacturers may be held liable for injuries and damage they cause.