Car accidents are always a concern for anyone who drives or rides on our roadways, but as the new age of self-driving vehicles arrives on the market, the inevitable legal questions around how to assign legal liability in self-driving car accidents are already heading to court. General Motors made impressive moves in 2017 to position itself as the first major auto manufacturers deliver self-driving vehicles to everyday consumers, but their bold foray into the relatively untested area is already creating complicated issues.
Recently, a driverless car collided with a motorcyclist in San Francisco, bringing front and center the question of who exactly bears liability when a driverless car takes actions that result in a car accident, especially when serious bodily injury or death are involved.
The accident occurred when the self-driving vehicle changed lanes to the left and then abruptly changed back, against the wishes of the backup driver, knocking the motorcyclist to the ground as he attempted to pass. The initial police report found the motorcyclist at fault for unsafely passing on the right of the car, but the rider's attorney's dispute this finding, claiming that the car was clearly at fault for reentering the lane.
These issues may take years to establish clear precedent. In the meantime, it is exceptionally important for anyone who experiences a collision with a driverless car to make sure they fully understand how to defend their rights. GM and other manufacturers are understandably motivated to deflect liability, to ensure that their products have a good chance at taking holding the market, but these concerns should not supersede the rights of the individual.
Source: The Seattle Times, "Self-driving car crash raises tricky legal question of blame," Ethan Baron, Jan. 25, 2018