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Driverless Cars Accidents: Who is at Fault?

Automobile accidents are unfortunately very common.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 290 automobile fatalities in Nevada just in the year 2014 alone.  This number does not include the numerous other Nevadans who were injured in car accidents.  In these accidents the injured typically seek to recover damages from the drivers who injured them.  However, as technology changes, automobile accidents laws may need to change as well.  This is especially true when it comes to self-driving cars.  If you are in an accident with a self-driving car, who can you recover from? For that matter, if you are in a self-driving car that is in an accident, are you at fault?


Are Self-driving Cars Safe?

First we would ask whether or not this is an issue.  After all, if self-driving cars are not getting into accidents then there is no problem.  However, according to Bloomberg Business self-driving cars have a crash rate double than that of human driven vehicles.  The reason for this is self-driving cars are too careful.  The cars obey traffic laws “without exception.” As a result, they do not react to changing traffic conditions like humans would.  Although this creates an issue, humans are at fault for all recorded accidents with self-driving vehicles.  The accidents are usually rear-end collisions by inattentive drivers.  In one instance, a motorcycle cop pulled over a self-driving car for going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone.  No ticket was issued, but he did issue a warning to the engineers onboard citing safety concerns.


This is a pressing issue for Nevadans since, as the National Law Review noted, Nevada is one of the few states to legalize autonomous vehicles.  The article says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests states should be the ones to regulate laws concerning the operation of self-driving vehicles.  On the other hand, Wired reported on January 14th the Secretary of Transportation made an announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation had six months to develop regulations pertaining to the testing and regulation of autonomous vehicles.  This is done in an effort to create consistent regulation for autonomous vehicles across the states.


The digital news outlet Quartz suggests, even if your car is self-driving, you could still be responsible for damages if the car is in an accident.  The article cites a court case in which a driver using cruise control was still found liable by a judge for damages, despite the fact he was not in control of the speed.  Quartz also draws an analogy to airplane accidents.  Despite the fact many times issues can occur with the autopilot controls, the pilots are still held responsible for damages.


What Does this Mean For you?

You probably don’t need to worry about the liability of your self-driving car just yet.  However, Fortune and U.S. News reported luxury cars like Mercedes and Tesla are even expanding into the self-driving market. This is an indication of the market pushing for more self-driving cars.  In the very near future these cars may be on your streets, and they may be involved in accidents. If that happens you will need a licensed Nevada automobile accident attorney to help you with your claim.  Call a Nevada auto attorney if you are in an accident to discuss your options.


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