Who Is Responsible When An Automated Vehicle Gets Into An Accident?

Who is responsible when a car with an autopilot gets into an accident? 

More and more cars with automated driving systems are on the road. Tesla, in particular, has made tremendous progress in getting these vehicles onto the open market, but there are also cars out there by BMW, Nissan, Volvo, and others. And even with autopilot, accidents happen. This is what you need to know before you get behind the wheel of one of these cars.

Autopilot Does Not Equal a Lack of Responsibility

Sometimes cars with advanced autopilot functions are referred to as "autonomous," but that's a bit of a misnomer. Even though the artificial intelligence that controls the autopilot function on all of these vehicles is remarkable, they still don't function at the level where a driver can simply sit behind the wheel and read or doze off. 

All of the manufacturers of these vehicles warn their owners that the driver still needs to pay attention to the road in order to watch for things that the imperfect autopilot doesn't detect. For example, several cars with autopilot have hit -- of all things -- fire trucks. That's because their autopilot functions don't always detect stationary objects when the automated car is following another car and that car moves out of its lane. It's not a failure on the part of automated technology, but a reflection of the technology's current limitations.

Both the Driver and the Manufacturer Could Be Liable for Accidents

Just because manufacturers warn drivers about the limitations of autopilot doesn't necessarily mean that the manufacturers are off the hook for any accidents involving its vehicles. The question of liability has to be examined according to the circumstances of each case.

If a driver of an automated vehicle stops paying attention to the road and picks up his or her cell phone instead, the odds are good that the driver is going to be at least partially liable for any accidents that result. 

However, some drivers have argued that the manufacturers of some of these vehicles have misled consumers into believing that the artificial intelligence is actually better than human beings at preventing accidents. They claim that this creates a false sense of security that these manufacturers encourage, and they should therefore also bear responsibility for any accidents.

Product liability laws do allow consumers to hold a manufacturer responsible when there is a negligent misrepresentation of a product that leads to an accident. Manufacturers can also be held responsible when a product simply doesn't work as it is intended.

Since there's no single answer to the question of liability when an automated vehicle is involved, anyone who is injured in an accident involving one of these cars would be best advised to seek out the counsel of an experienced personal injury lawyer at a law firm like Richard Glazer Law Office.