Can Motorcyclists Trust Autonomous Vehicles?

Accident on the street

Accident on the street

As the “car of the future,” autonomous vehicles have a lot of promise moving forward. Automakers claim that the vehicles will save $127 billion in damages worldwide by 2027, and by 2050 these vehicles may be able to reduce traffic fatalities by 90 percent. But are these promises too good to be true? A new lawsuit in California is shining doubt upon autonomous vehicles, and if you ride a motorcycle, it may be time to pay attention to this issue.

Do Autonomous Vehicles Put Motorcyclists in Danger?

In San Francisco, what is probably the first but not last lawsuit against the maker of an autonomous vehicle has been filed. In the lawsuit a motorcyclist claims that after an autonomous vehicle changed lanes, it suddenly reentered the lane and crashed into his Honda S90. The motorcyclist says he had moved into the empty space left by the driverless vehicle before it erratically reentered the lane, bumped his bike and caused him to crash. Luckily, the accident happened at low speed, but due to the fall, the motorcyclist is claiming that he sustained a shoulder and neck injury that has kept him from work. However, GM—manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle in question—tells a different story.

GM says that its autonomous vehicle tried to change lanes but aborted the operation as another vehicle braked. The car then tried to re-center itself in the lane when it bumped into a motorcyclist that was lanesplitting (a legal maneuver in California). The police report goes on to partially agree with GM’s report, but adds that the backup driver in the car tried to grab the wheel and stop the car from running into the motorcyclist. The rider still maintains that he had been following the autonomous vehicle before the crash occurred.

These differing stories raise several concerns when it comes to autonomous vehicles on the road. Did the vehicle detect the motorcyclist? If so, did it choose to continue into the lane anyway? Does this mean GM autonomous vehicles could disregard motorcyclists in terms of safety? The attorneys who ride are going to keep following this story to see where motorcyclists land in this new legal mine field.

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