The recent death a woman in Arizona who was hit by a self-driving Uber vehicle raises many questions, including who can be held liable when this type of car accident causes a self-driving car fatality.
Self Driving Car Accident Lawyers Explain
The victim was walking her bike across a busy road. As she crossed the four-lane road, she was hit and killed by a Volvo SUV that was using by Uber’s autonomous technology. The car was in self-driving mode going 40 mph. An Uber vehicle operator was the backup safety driver behind the wheel, but he apparently was not paying attention.
The police chief who reviewed the accident video said, “It would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.”
However, the Tempe Police Department has not determined if the autonomous technology, the safety driver or the pedestrian was at fault. Currently, the investigation is being conducted by the Attorney’s Office in Maricopa County.
Self Driving Car Accident Attorney on “How Did This Happen?”
Uber has been testing self-driving vehicles in several states with little federal oversight. The Arizona regulations didn’t require the company to reveal how self-driving cars were performing in tests and on the road.
The self-driving vehicle project had issues before the self-driving car accident death happened. Uber’s autonomous cars had exhibited problems prior to the crash. Employees of Uber had expressed concern regarding the safety of these vehicles since the human backup drivers often had to take control to keep the vehicles running safely.
Also, there was pressure on the part of Uber to provide self-driving car services by the end of 2018. The stress of increasing production of these cars caused errors in fixing the problems with the technology. Automobile manufacturers like Toyota and GM, collaborating with Lyft and Uber on these projects, spend billions of dollars developing technology for autonomous vehicles with the goal of making more money.
Who Can Self Driving Car Accident Attorneys Hold Liable?
Since the car that killed Herzberg was an Uber, the company could be named as a defendant in the case. Third parties such as the vehicle manufacturer or manufacturers who created the technology could also be held responsible. The safety driver for Uber could also be held liable for the self-driving car death.
Many states have developed legislation for self-driving automobiles in recent years. However, car accident litigation depends on whether the driver is found to be negligent. Any lawsuit involving a self-driving car is hard to prove without a human driver behind the wheel. Assigning liability may depend on whether a design defect caused the self-driving car crash.
One issue of liability is that the software that controls a self-driving vehicle is not usually made by the car manufacturer, but an outside hardware and software supplier. A company called Nvidia has partnered with car makers to provide most of the chip technology, but they now plan to temporarily suspend the testing of self-driving cars.
Another concern about liability is whether companies like Uber that provide this type of self-driving technology have signed indemnification agreements. These contracts are confidential, so it is difficult to determine who is ultimately liable.
Indemnity contracts refer to contracts between companies that determine compensation for damages, loss or wrongful death. It also applies to an exemption from liability. The issue of indemnity is brought up in agreements in which one party agrees to pay for potential losses or damages caused by another party.
The reason companies sign this type of contract is to keep things moving. Uber may have signed an indemnity contract to get technology for self-driving into their cars, or the technology company signed an agreement with the car manufacturer or any other third parties that are involved.
What Does This Say About the Future of Driverless Cars?
Up until now, litigation over self-driving accidents that did not result in death has been settled in a confidential manner. It’s possible that indemnification arrangements will still be handled behind closed doors. As more accidents involving self-driving car crashes occur, it may force more autonomous car crash settlements to become public.
Traditional car accidents focus on driver negligence to pursue litigation against the at-fault parties in most cases. Since the driverless car death involves an autonomous system, pedestrian accident lawyers and investigators will have to look at any design, programming, or installation defects.
It will be up to the court what exactly caused the self-driving Uber to kill the pedestrian and whether the autonomous vehicle or backup human driver could have avoided the crash.
If it is determined that design defects in the car killed the pedestrian, it could set a legal precedent for self-driving cars in the future and require more research on the technology. Since this accident, Uber has voluntarily suspended all self-driving programs across the United States.
As the investigation into this incident continues, more self-driving car accidents will inevitably happen. State legislation regarding these types of vehicles will have to be developed or revised. The uncertainty about autonomous cars will have companies looking to the federal government for guidance and regulations. Until these safety concerns are cleared up, it will be up to the states to consider the issues of the potential economic benefits of self-driving cars versus the safety of their citizens.
Dedicated Self Driving Car Accident Lawyers in Sacramento
At Demas Law Group, our Sacramento car accident lawyers have more than 25 years of experience helping victims of personal injuries in car accidents. We will treat you with respect and compassion while being tenacious litigators and smart negotiators who will fight for you. Contact us for a free consultation.