When My Robot Hits Your Robot: Who is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Will self-driving cars cause accidents?Major tech and auto companies are currently developing cars that can operate without drivers. Self-driving cars use software, sensors, and computers to navigate roads and avoid obstacles.

Can these vehicles get into accidents? Some reports suggest self-driving cars are “too careful” to operate near human drivers. One report from Google shows 13 incidents where self-driving cars would have collided had it not been for human intervention. In 10 of the 13 incidents, Google claimed its technology was to blame.

Self-driving cars are not perfect, at least not yet. When self-driving cars become the norm, who would be at fault after an accident? No litigation currently exists on this issue, but we can still speculate.

Would Passengers or Auto Manufacturers Be Held Liable for Self-Driving Car Accidents?

Self-driving vehicles are arriving at a time when public mistrust of auto manufacturers is at an all-time high due to defective parts, such as GM’s ignition switch or Takata’s airbags. What if one day in the near future, an auto manufacturer releases faulty software or equipment for self-driving cars? If we learn from recent history, this situation appears possible.

In the scenario software or equipment malfunctions cause car accidents, it is likely the auto manufacturer would be held liable. Some manufacturers have already embraced this possibility. Last year, Volvo announced that it would accept liability if accidents involving its self-driving cars were caused by a design flaw.

In cases where passengers interfere with the vehicle’s equipment or software and cause an accident, it is possible they could be held liable. Self-driving cars still use steering wheels, making such a scenario possible. Like many cases involving speculation, the answer to our question is, “it depends.” We will have to wait and see what the future holds.

Metier Law Firm is a Wyoming and Colorado-based personal injury firm that helps clients nationwide.