Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

by Staff Blogger | January 5th, 2023

Self-driving cars represent a new age in the auto industry. Along with implementing smart technologies like traffic sensors in major cities like Sacramento, vehicle manufacturers are creating self-driving cars to change the roadways for drivers.

The federal Department of Transportation has mapped safety standards and plans for integrating autonomous vehicles on American roads. Self-driving cars could create employment opportunities for two million people with disabilities and save the healthcare system $19 billion annually in healthcare costs of missed appointments.

However, no amount of technological advancement can put an end to all risks associated with driving. The California DMV has received 533 reports of accidents involving autonomous vehicles from manufacturers during test runs as of December 2022.

If you are involved in a self-driving vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. However, determining liability for this type of accident can be challenging. Learn more about liability in self-driving car collisions and how Berg Injury Lawyers can help you with your case.

How Self-Driving Cars Work

Self-driving cars rely on automated safety features to detect surrounding objects, cars, and other vehicles. These features include cameras and sensors to operate and navigate on highways and roads.

Map Building

Cameras and Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology scan the car’s surroundings when out on the road. The vehicle’s computer builds a map of its surroundings and places the car within the map, allowing the technology to plan a route for the vehicle to travel.

Path Planning

Path planning allows driverless cars to find routes that are as safe and fast as possible while maneuvering in traffic. They start with a long-range plan and then generate short-range plans that can change as the trip progresses.

Obstacle Avoidance

A self-driving vehicle’s map includes all visible and predicted obstacles it may face. Machine learning enables them to identify specific objects such as motorcycles and bicycles and avoid them accordingly.

Other self-driving vehicles can communicate with each other over a wireless connection to see if hidden objects are ahead. When one vehicle encounters an obstacle, it warns the other cars so they can avoid it.

The self-driving car may become dangerous if it cannot detect hazards effectively and efficiently. Sensor degradation and failure can cause detection errors, confuse the car’s computer, and make driving dangerous. A human driver may need to take over if the car’s systems fail during the trip. If this occurs, it may complicate identifying who was at fault in a car accident.

Who is Liable if Autopilot Crashes?

Self-driving car accident liability can fall on the human driver or the self-driving vehicle manufacturer. Responsibility depends on whether the car’s auto-pilot system was turned on during the accident.

Human Driver

California’s Vehicle Code 38750 requires self-driving cars to have safety alert systems to warn drivers of computer failures. The driver must regain complete control over the car’s brakes, acceleration, and steering wheel if a computer failure occurs. A driver who doesn’t take control during an emergency can be held responsible for the accident.

Auto Manufacturer

Since driverless vehicles use computers and cameras to plan routes, computing factors can contribute to defects in these vehicles. Computing problems can include:

  • Software bugs
  • System failures
  • Inability to warn the operator to take over the vehicle

Product liability laws in California hold those who design, manufacture or sell defective products strictly responsible for any injuries. Vehicle manufacturers must consider collision safety when designing and building their products. Therefore, vehicle manufacturers are liable for damages caused by manufacturing or design defects.

The Question of Venue to File Your Lawsuit

The appropriate court or venue can be an issue in filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident. You can file in any judicial district where the crash happened or where the other party lives. However, venue issues can arise if the other party is an out-of-state corporation, such as an auto manufacturer.

You can work with the California auto accident lawyers at Berg Injury Lawyers to help you with your lawsuit against the auto manufacturing company. We can help you establish the manufacturer’s minimum contacts, such as having an in-state physical location or accepting online orders in-state.

A state court must find these contacts sufficient to assert personal jurisdiction and allow you to sue the company in California. If your damages are at least $75,000, we can help you transfer your case to federal court.

Start Your Case with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

Proving liability in a self-driving car accident can be complex with the assistance of an accomplished car accident attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers. We understand California’s self-driving vehicle laws and can help you build a claim against the driver and/or the manufacturer who caused your injuries.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our lawyers.