An estimated 1,400 self-driving cars tested by over 80 companies are currently on U.S. roads. With the increase in autonomous vehicles, called AVs for short, many are left wondering what Houston traffic accident law has to say about self-driving cars. For example, who is responsible if you get in an accident with a self-driving car? Will the laws change as more autonomous vehicles become available? In this article, we’ll discuss self-driving cars, what to do after an accident with one, as well as what the future may hold for traffic and liability laws.
How Does Houston Traffic Accident Law Address Self-Driving Cars?
So, what does the law have to say about self-driving cars? Actually, not a lot. While some states have enacted laws that specifically address self-driving cars, most Texas laws don’t mention autonomous vehicles in particular. This may be because they’re relatively new. Also, truly self-driving cars aren’t currently available yet. However, there has been a lot of talk about laws and liability specifically related to AVs. So, specific AV laws may not be too far behind. Until AV technology advances and more self-driving cars are available to the public, current laws can still help when identifying liability in a crash with a self-driving car.
What is a Self-Driving Car?
Before we get into the nitty gritty about Houston traffic accident law regarding self-driving cars, it’s important to actually define what an autonomous vehicle is. After all, people can have different ideas about what a self-driving car is. To help cut through the confusion, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has created six levels of autonomy for cars.
Level 0 autonomy for vehicles is basically there’s no features that help with driving. It’s all on the human driver.
Level 1 vehicle automation includes things like advanced driver assist systems (ADAS). Features can help with steering, braking, or accelerating sometimes, but not more than one at the same time. For instance, many newer models include automatic braking when the car detects a likely accident.
Level 2 car autonomy also includes many modern ADAS features. A level 2 autonomous vehicle can assist with steering, braking, and accelerating at the same time in certain circumstances. However, the driver must constantly monitor the road and also perform all other driving-related tasks.
Level 3 cars allow the driver to use an automated driving system (ADS) where the car can essentially drive for you in specific situations. With level 3 autonomous vehicles, the human driver must still actively supervise driving and be able to take control of the vehicle when needed.
Level 4 autonomous vehicles can perform all functions of driving in certain circumstances, including monitoring driving conditions. With this type of vehicle the human driver doesn’t need to pay attention during these situations.
Level 5 vehicle automation essentially means any human in the car is a passenger. The car does all the driving and doesn’t need assistance for driving or monitoring the road.
As of right now, only level 2 and level 3 AVs are on the market and available to purchase.
Who is Liable for Damages from Self-Driving Cars?
Now that we know the different levels of self-driving cars, the next question you might have is who will pay for damages and injuries if you’re in an accident with a self-driving car. As of right now, remember that we only have level 2 and level 3 car options available to the public. Therefore, it’s important to focus on these types of vehicles for now.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what type of autonomous vehicles are actually available right now. Many mistakenly believe you can engage the driving assistance functions, sit back, and relax. However, as we’ve just discussed, level 2 and level 3 autonomous vehicles actively require a human driver to help supervise and control the car.
With this in mind, in most cases liability for injuries and damages from an accident with a self-driving car would fall on the person in the driver’s seat if they’re the one who caused the accident. This is because they must be paying attention and ready to take control at a moment’s notice. If they fail to do so and you get into an accident, that driver is likely liable for any accident-related expenses. You will likely need to take the same steps as any other accidents. For example, filing a claim with their auto insurance for your damages and injuries.
Of course, self-driving cars can malfunction and break down just like non-autonomous cars. Therefore, in some cases the manufacturer or software programmer may be liable as well. For example, in a non-autonomous car, if the brakes fail due to a design or manufacturing defect, that manufacturer may be liable for your accident. The same might be true of defects in an autonomous vehicle, such as issues with software or sensors.
Houston Traffic Accident Law: Who Can You Sue for Damages From a Self-Driving Car?
So, after an accident, who can you sue for your damages and injuries? This is a good question to ask your Houston accident injury attorney, as the answer really depends on the specifics of the situation. After all, you could have caused the accident. Just because a self-driving car was involved doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from fault or liability.
However, if you weren’t at fault for your accident, there may be several different avenues to consider for getting compensation. We mentioned this a little earlier, but you might be able to seek compensation from the person in the driver’s seat of the vehicle (or the person who was supposed to be in the driver’s seat). If the crash occurred because the driver wasn’t paying attention and ready to take over control of the car when needed, then you may be able to sue them for compensation.
In other cases, it might be something to do with the vehicle itself. These circumstances get pretty tricky fast. For example, if the car wasn’t properly maintained by the owner, then they may still be liable. However, if there were defects with the vehicle’s design or manufacturing, it may be the car manufacturer’s negligence that caused the accident. In these cases, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. With self-driving cars, a different company from the manufacturer may have created the self-driving technology. In some cases you may also be able to seek compensation from that organization.
As you can see, accident cases with self-driving cars can be incredibly complex. Therefore, it can be helpful for your case to get counsel for your case from an experienced Houston auto injury attorney.
DeSimone Law Office: Specializing in Personal Injury and Houston Traffic Accident Law
After an accident, call our team at DeSimone Law Office for help. Our attorneys are here for you to help with everything from filing a claim to seeking compensation in court for your damages and injuries. We’ve helped settle countless cases and are proud to be your attorneys for life whenever you need. Contact us today to get a free case evaluation from one of our personal injury attorneys.