Dec 23 2018

Self-Driving Car Features & Liability, Part 1

It’s not the plot of an 80s sci-fi movie, it’s reality: Self-driving cars are coming, and they may soon be a major part of our basic driving experience. In fact, many of these vehicles are already hitting roads around the country.

As those of you who have been in an accident involving liability might already be thinking, this creates some interesting circumstances for vehicle collisions and determining who is responsible. At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys can help you if you happen to be involved in an incident with one of these cars. In part one of this two-part blog examining this new area, we’ll go over the history of self-driving cars and their features, plus some benefits and drawbacks they may come with. In part two, we’ll go over some specific liability areas to know here.

self-driving car features liability

Self-Driving Feature Timeline

To get a full picture of how the legal landscape has evolved in terms of self-driving cars and liability for accidents they’re involved in, one must understand the history of their technology. Self-driving cars use what are called Automated Driving Systems (ADS), but this technology is still in its relative infant stages. Here’s how we got to where we are today, plus where experts in the field expect things to go over the next several years:

  • 2000 to 2010: During this period, fully self-driving cars were not yet on the road at all. There were, however, several individual self-driving features that began to show up in certain models, such as electronic stability control, collision warnings, blind spot detection, lane departure warnings and other similar assists.
  • 2010 to 2016: By the turn of the decade, most of the features we just listed above were standard on new models. But new features like rearview video, lane centering, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alerts and others began to show up in ADS systems as well.
  • 2016 to present and onward: By 2016, certain ADS features began to show up that presented something close to full autonomy over the driver. We’re talking about areas like self-parking, traffic assists, lane-holding assists, adaptive cruise control, and several automated safety features.
  • 2025 and beyond: By the year 2025 or even potentially sooner, it’s expected that fully autonomous vehicles will be common – and will eventually make up the majority of cars on the road in the US.

Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars are beneficial for two primary reasons:

  • Potential safety increases: Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 94 percent of all severe crashes on US highways take place due to human error. Because self-driving technology shows the potential to fully remove this error from the range of possibilities, many experts forecast a huge reduction in major accidents.
  • Convenience: More and more autonomous vehicles will lead to a rise in ridesharing services, and will also be beneficial for people who cannot drive due to limitations of any kind.

Potential Issues With Self-Driving Cars

At the same time, self-driving cars still need a lot of work to get past some potential issues. Cybersecurity is one such problem, and another is who is responsible when an automated vehicle crashes – who is liable? Which party’s insurance is on the hook? We’ll examine these questions in part two of this blog.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our auto accident attorney services, speak to the pros at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.