Autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform how we live. While there are numerous benefits, it still stands that self-driving car accidents are a dangerous possibility. Just in May of 2018, a pedestrian in Arizona was killed when an Uber self-driving car failed to complete an emergency stop. According to a federal investigation, the autonomous car did not stop because its emergency stop system was disabled.
Until technology can guarantee the safety of autonomous vehicles, there will be instances where these collisions occur. If you’ve been injured in a driverless car accident, it’s important to understand your legal rights. Our Kentucky autonomous car accidents lawyers are prepared to answer your questions. Let’s start by taking a look at how self-driving cars work.
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How Do Self-Driving Cars Operate?
A variety of technology companies and automakers have started developing autonomous vehicles. Google, Tesla, Uber, and Nissan are currently leading the way. While their designs vary, most self-driving cars operate by using sensors to create and maintain a map of their surroundings. These sensors may consist of laser beams, radar, high-powered cameras, and sonar.
While researchers continue to develop this self-driving technology, the list below contains the initial features they focused on. The vehicles with these features are considered partially-autonomous because a human driver is still required for total operation.
- Self-park steering – this feature assists drivers with parking in tight spaces
- Self-park acceleration and brakes – in continuation with the self-park steering, self-park acceleration and brakes allow the vehicle to autonomously adjust its speed while parking
- Adaptive cruise control – this cruise control features allows the car to speed up or slow down by itself depending on the flow of traffic
- Lane-centering steering – this features allows a vehicle to detect when a driver is drifting into another lane and takes measures to correct the motion
Since the implementation of those features, companies have developed fully autonomous vehicles. Tesla and Google are paving the way for this type of vehicle. Tesla currently offers a full self-driving capability package with its vehicles, and Google’s independent company, Waymo, is focusing on creating safer drivers by selling the technology necessary to fully automate cars.
Driverless Cars Legislation in Kentucky
While Kentucky legislatures have discussed the issue of autonomous vehicles, there have not been many laws enacted to protect drivers in the event of an accident. In 2018, however, the state did enact a law to regulate truck platooning. Truck platooning occurs when a number of trucks equipped with driving support systems closely follow one another. The trucks are driven by smart technology and communicate with each other.
In order to clarify what a driverless car is, the Department of Transportation has adopted the automobile automation standards developed by SAE International. The system is broken down into six levels.
- Level 0: The vehicle has to be human-operated.
- Level 1: A human driver has to do most of the driving; however, there is a driver assistance system.
- Level 2: A human driver is required, but the vehicle is partially automated.
- Level 3: The vehicle is fully self-driving but requires human intervention in the event of an error.
- Level 4: The vehicle is able to problem solve without the need of a human driver.
- Level 5: The vehicle is fully automated, and has no pedals, wheels, or controls necessary for human drivers.
While level five most certainly seems like something out of a science fiction movie, it is likely technology will continue to strive for those types of vehicles.
In addition to those standards, the Self Drive Act established the responsibilities the Department of Transportation has regarding automated vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the official governing body over the automated car industry. As autonomous technologies develop, it is likely more legislation will be passed to establish what the laws and protocols are for road legality and driverless accident liability.
The Impact and Future of Autonomous Vehicles
While it’s difficult to determine how significantly the automated car industry will impact our lives, we can predict the possible impacts.
Economic Impacts. Self-driving technology has the potential to mobilize individuals who previously relied on loved ones or public transportation to get around. As a result, the public transportation sector could take a hit. There may also be significant job market changes. While new jobs regarding automation and technology development may appear, other jobs involving traditional car maintenance and food delivery will likely become obsolete.
Environmental Impacts. Every year, our vehicles release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If autonomous vehicles are developed with a greener attitude in mind to encourage alternative fuel sources and efficient driving, we could contribute to improving the climate.
Safety Impacts. Thousands of lives are lost every year as a result of negligent drivers. While self-driving vehicles still need major improvements, there is the chance those number could go down if the technology is proven to be less error-prone than human drivers.
Who is Responsible in the Event of a Collision with a Self-Driving Vehicle?
Unsurprisingly, driverless car manufacturers are likely to look for every possible reason to blame a human driver in the event of an accident. On many autonomous cars, current software is designed to alert the human driver to take over the wheel when necessary; however, there may be instances when the technology does not alert the drive fast enough. The other concern that needs to be addressed is what happens when there is no human driver.
Determining liability after a collision with a driverless car is difficult because the concrete liability laws just do not exist yet. If you find yourself the victim of a self-driving car wreck, you may want to consider hiring legal representation.
Determining Liability with a Knowledgeable Kentucky Self-Driving Car Accident Attorney
Given the complexities involving this developing area of law, your best bet to seek the compensation you deserve after your accident is to get in touch with a Louisville autonomous car accident lawyer. At Thomas Law Offices, we’re prepared to give your case the time it deserves. We’ll investigate your accident and do what it takes to obtain the necessary data from the self-driving vehicle’s software to support your claim. Contact us today to begin your case.