home personal injury driverless car accident

Santa Barbara Driverless Car Accident Lawyers

Autonomous Cars Are Coming to California

In 2012 Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1298, which paved the way for self-driving cars in California. The law outlined procedures and requirements for fully autonomous cars to operate on California’s roads and highways.

Subsequently, with the advance of driverless car technology, the state of California has approved the limited use of fully autonomous driverless taxis in San Francisco by Cruise, a company owned by GM.

There is much apprehension about the use of driverless vehicles. Automakers have been testing both autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles that drive on their own but have a driver at the wheel in case of emergency. So far, these tests have resulted in five deaths and six serious injuries according to NPR.

The arrival of fully autonomous cars raises a number of serious legal questions, the most obvious being: Who is liable for injuries and fatalities caused by accidents involving autonomous cars? The answer to that question is manufacturers, designers, and sellers can all be held liable under California law when people are harmed by their products.

If you were injured in an accident involving an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle, contact the Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at NordstrandBlack PC by calling (805) 962-2022 right away.

Are They Safe?

Today many cars have automatic safety features such as alarms that sound when you are drifting out of your lane, driver assist features which make it difficult to change lanes without activating a turn signal, or brakes that automatically engage to prevent the driver from hitting a pedestrian. But a fully autonomous car that always navigates safely without the assistance of a human driver has not been created yet.

Semi-autonomous cars that have drivers who are ready to take control of the vehicle when a warning alarm sounds are currently being tested by automakers across the country. Despite the use of radar, cameras, sensors, and powerful computers, there have been several injuries and fatalities caused by these vehicles.

In 2018 a Google test driver was killed when the vehicle he was testing on autopilot signaled that he needed to take over the controls. Unfortunately, the driver wasn’t able to respond in time to avert a tragedy.

Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has been experimenting with driverless taxis in Phoenix, Arizona under controlled conditions. They’ve had mixed results; the cars are still unable to pick up and drop off passengers without double parking.

The driverless taxis currently being operated by Cruise in San Francisco have strict use limitations. They will only be operating in the daytime in areas with less traffic, and won’t be available in rainy or foggy weather.

Ethical and Liability Issues

Driverless cars present issues where the law hasn’t caught up with technology. There are still legal and ethical issues that need to be addressed. For example, if a child runs into the road, will autonomous cars be programmed to avoid hitting the child if that causes the vehicle to make a maneuver that could harm its passengers or people in other vehicles?

These issues will be difficult to litigate. However, although you can’t cross examine a robot, your lawyer can discover how it was programmed.

In California, designers, manufacturers, and sellers of vehicles can all be held liable for a defective product that harms someone. These issues can be very complex when it comes to autonomous and semi-autonomous cars. An owner of a vehicle may be at fault if they were using autopilot when an accident occurred, but they could claim that they did not receive a warning in time to take control of the vehicle.

In their situation, businesses that design or create other components such as sensors and computer software may also be liable for injuries caused by a crash.

Were You Injured by a Driverless Vehicle?

Nobody should have to pay for injuries caused by someone else’s careless behavior. At NordstrandBlack PC, we’ve won millions of dollars for our clients, and we have a 99 percent success rate.

Schedule a FREE consultation today by calling (805) 962-2022. At NordstrandBlack PC, we’re on your side.