Who is responsible for an accident involving a self-driving car?

In today’s society, advanced technology has equipped vehicles with self-driving capabilities that enable cars to operate with little to no human involvement depending on the level of automation the vehicle is equipped with. As with any auto accident, determining who is liable for an accident can be difficult. Keep reading to learn who may be held responsible for an accident involving a self-driving car and how our adept Washington, D.C. Car Accident Lawyers can help you. 

What is a self-driving car?

A self-driving car uses technology and software to travel to a destination without human interaction. Essentially, self-driving vehicles are being developed to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver error. The Society of Automotive Engineers assigns different degrees of automation to autonomous vehicles:

  • Level 0: The vehicle has no automation. The motorist controls the vehicle.
  • Level 1: The vehicle requires minimal motorist assistance.
  • Level 2: The vehicle is equipped with partial automation features such as cruise control. The driver is still in control of the vehicle.
  • Level 3: The vehicle can operate without the motorist’s control. However, the motorist is still necessary and required to be engaged in case they have to take control.
  • Level 4: The vehicle can operate with a motorist in control, however, the motorist can take control if needed.
  • Level 5: The vehicle is fully automated. The vehicle can operate without human involvement.

Regardless of the level of automation, motorists are still required to engage in safe driving behaviors and stay alert while behind the wheel to prevent serious accidents and injuries. Although vehicles are equipped with self-driving capabilities, in some cases, motorists need to regain control to avoid unexpected hazards.

Who could be liable for an accident involving an autonomous vehicle?

As mentioned above, self-driving cars are uncharted territory when it comes to insurance claims. However, as with any type of auto accident, several parties may be liable as a result of negligence. The following parties may be liable for an accident involving a self-driving car:

  • The motorist. If a motorist does not remain alert while behind the wheel, they can be held liable for a collision. Most people think that they do not have to pay attention to the road because their vehicle does all the work. However, if a motorist engages in an unsafe driving practice such as sleeping while traveling in a self-driving car, they are negligent and are therefore liable for an accident.
  • The manufacturer. If there is a malfunctioning part or mechanical issue that causes an accident, the vehicle manufacturer can be held responsible for the accident. If a motorist could not have done anything to prevent an accident because of a manufacturing issue, the manufacturer is liable.
  • The software designer. Autonomous vehicles rely on their software to sense their environment to operate without human interaction. If there is an issue with the technology or software of the vehicle such as a sensory issue, it could lead to an accident as it may not be able to detect hazards on the road. Therefore, the software designer could be held liable for an accident.

For more information on accidents involving autonomous vehicles, contact an experienced Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer who can help you seek reasonable compensation for your damages.