What is a Google Self-Driving Car?
According to Google, “Our self-driving cars are designed to navigate safely through city streets.” The advertisement claims you can get around easier and safer with cars designed to “take you where you want to go at the push of a button.” The company claims that everyone, including visually impaired and aging individuals, can get around easily and safely.
The cars work by using sensors to detect objects around the car. The software processes the information from the sensors to navigate the road while avoiding potential obstacles and dangers. This is all done without any driver input. Google is testing its self-driving cars in Mountain View, California, Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Washington.
Google claims that self-driving cars can reduce traffic accidents substantially because 94% of the accidents in the United States each year are caused by driver error. However, in February 2016, one of Google’s self-driving cars crashed into a bus on a California street.
Google Car vs. Bus
This is not the first car crash involving a Google self-driving vehicle but it may be the first accident caused by one of Google’s vehicles. The Google car was traveling about two miles per hour on a street in Mountain View, CA when it pulled into the path of a bus travelling about 15 miles per hour. The human in the Google vehicle assumed that the bus would allow the Google car to merge into traffic; therefore, the test driver did not override the car’s self-driving system.
The Report of Traffic Accident Involving An Autonomous Vehicle filed with the CA DMV shows the car in question was a 2012 Lexus RX450h owned by Google Auto LLC. The report only discloses property damage and does state the vehicle was operating in its autonomous mode. Google said that the vehicle’s movements were more complex due to sandbags in the road and the fact that a bus was involved in the collision. Google has since taken steps to refine the self-driving algorithm to correct the issues. According to Google, “From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles, and we hope to handle situations like this more gracefully in the future.”
If the traffic division rules that Google is at fault for the car crash, this could be a setback to the autonomous vehicle program. Just a few days before the collision, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled that the artificial intelligence system of a self-driving Google vehicle could be treated as the driver under federal law. This was a huge step in the path to obtaining approval for autonomous vehicles on all roads. This latest incident could offset this victory.
How Will Self-Driving Cars Impact Personal Injury Lawsuits?
It is true that one of the top two causes of automobile accidents could be avoided by a self-driving vehicle — distracted driving and drunk driving. With a self-driving vehicle, the passengers can text, talk on cell phones, read, groom, or eat without worrying about the road in front of them. People who have too much to drink can get in their vehicle and expect to arrive home safely because they are not required to operate the vehicle after they push the button telling the car to take them home.
However, in a typical vehicle crash, the injured victim sues the at-fault driver for damages sustained in the accident. If the “driver” is an artificial intelligence system, who do you sue if you are injured in a car crash involving a self-driving car? If the vehicle has a steering wheel and brake pedals, is the passenger in the vehicle who could have overridden the automatic system to blame? Is the manufacturer of the automobile to blame? Maybe the person who developed or programed the software that allowed the vehicle to self-drive is to blame.
At this time, there is no law that specifically addresses this issue because a Google car has not caused an accident. If self-driving vehicles are permitted to be used on roads without over-ride devices such as steering wheels and brakes, the question of liability will definitely be an issue for attorneys to litigate. A car crash involving a self-driving vehicle is likely to be a sticky mess between a typical automobile accident case and a product liability case. Regardless of the facts, the legal issues will be complex and difficult to sort out.
Another concern that many people have failed to consider is the privacy issue related to self-driving cars. In order for the operating system to function, it will track each turn and stop the car makes including how long the car stays at any particular location. This could be a serious privacy concern for passengers in the car if the information contained on those logs are subpoenaed to be used in various court cases. Again, there is a lack of clarity regarding this issue that attorneys will likely litigate when the issue arises in a court case.
Have You Been Injured in an Anchorage Car Accident?
At this moment, we do not have self-driving vehicles in Anchorage. Our car accidents occur for the typical reasons such as driver error, speed, drunk driving, and distracted driving. When someone is injured in a car accident, that person has the legal right to hold the liable party accountable for his or her actions through a personal injury lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, do not wait. Contact the motor vehicle accident lawyers of Kelley & Canterbury, L.L.C. for a free legal consultation. You should not be required to bear the financial burden of a car accident caused by another driver yourself. The law cannot undo the physical and emotional damage caused by a reckless driver; however, it can provide compensation for your losses.
Call our office at (907) 276-8185 or toll free at 1 (888) 454-8185 24 hours, 7 days a week to speak with a compassionate, knowledgeable representative.