Although it could be years before autonomous vehicles drive themselves around Oklahoma roads, they are being tested in the United States and Europe. Automakers tout their ability to remove human error from the driving equation, but self-driving technology remains imperfect and raises important questions about liability when accidents occur.
When representatives from Mercedes-Benz and Google, both makers of autonomous cars, answered questions during a 60 Minutes interview, they acknowledged that automakers would accept fault for accidents if they were caused by the autonomous vehicles. At a recent public appearance, the president and CEO of Volvo agreed that accident liability would fall to the automaker.
Google, which currently has a self-driving car in development, claims that human mistakes contribute to 94 percent of motor vehicle crashes. By removing this significant source of accidents, manufacturers of autonomous vehicles hope to reduce accident rates. Their technology, however, remains to be perfected. Difficult road conditions caused by rain, ice or snow produce inconsistent results in tests of self-driving cars. These autonomous vehicles also struggle to interpret hand gestures such as those from pedestrians.
Despite a need for improvements, automakers continue testing the vehicles. They have even called on the U.S. government to establish regulations nationwide to support the development of the technology.
Until self-driving cars become a factor, people and their insurance companies will remain the source of compensation when car accidents injure or kill people. A person hurt in an accident by a reckless driver could receive support from an attorney when preparing a lawsuit. An attorney could document evidence from the accident and collect testimony from experts to strengthen a personal injury case. Negotiations with an insurance company could also be conducted by an attorney. The goal would be to collect a settlement for the injured person that covers medical bills and lost income at a minimum.