Phoenix Driverless Vehicle Accident Attorneys
Motor vehicle manufacturers and high-tech companies are aggressively researching and testing driverless technology. Companies like Volvo, Uber, General Motors, Tesla, and many startups already have self-driven cars and even tractor-trailers on roads in the United States and Europe, but most of these vehicles still have human drivers aboard as a safety measure.
Proponents of these driver-free vehicles claim that they will make the roads safer and reduce traffic congestion, but recent accidents involving autonomous vehicles have raised questions about their safety and about who can be held responsible in such accidents. Liability law concerning driver-free vehicles is uncharted territory, and many issues must be sorted out by the courts and lawmakers.
If you or someone you love was injured by a self-driving car, you have the right to seek compensation, but determining liability may be complicated. The Husband & Wife Law Team is no stranger to complex auto accident cases, and we’ll use our years of experience to help you get fair compensation.
Contact our Phoenix car accident attorneys at (602) 457-6222 for a FREE consultation. We know the best strategies for getting an appropriate settlement for any type of motor vehicle crash. We’ll investigate your accident to determine who was negligent, and then we’ll file a claim that covers the full cost of your damages.
Uber claims that, worldwide, self-driving cars "can help save millions of lives." This statement, along with safety claims from other driverless vehicle enthusiasts, usually stem from the estimate that 94% of all traffic accidents are the result of human error. But there are several problems with relying on statistics about the human cause of accidents, and not on a human driver’s ability to avoid accidents. This is because no one reports an "almost accident."
When considering the safety potential of self-driven vehicles, hypothetical questions like the following are often posed:
“A driverless car is driving down the street. A mother pushing a stroller steps out into its path. The vehicle is traveling too fast to stop in time. Does the computer driving the car… (a) hit the mother and child, or (b) swerve to avoid hitting the mother and child, and in doing so, crash into oncoming traffic, injuring or killing the car’s passengers? Will giving vehicles the right to make such split-second decisions really make the roads safer?”
Another concern about traffic safety and driverless vehicles is the transition period between when autonomous cars and trucks are introduced and share the roads with human drivers, before all vehicles are driverless. Will self-driven vehicles understand the subtle language of driving, such as waving another driver through an intersection or flashing your vehicle’s high beams? And, since driverless cars will be programmed to follow traffic laws, will they be able to safely share roads with human drivers who often don’t follow traffic laws to a T?
For instance, imagine that a driverless commercial truck is approaching an intersection where left-hand turns are illegal. The computer reads this and assumes the human driver approaching from the opposite direction will abide by the no-left-turn law and not turn. But, human drivers are known to make errors or willfully violate such laws. Will the driverless truck have the wisdom and experience to not assume the human-driven vehicles will follow the law?
Whether driverless vehicles will really make the roads safer remains to be seen.
Despite claims made by car manufacturers about autopilot systems and self-driving vehicles, the truth is that even the most advanced car needs a human driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes self-driving vehicles into five levels based on how autonomous they really are:
- Zero: No automation where a driver is fully in control of the vehicle.
- One: Driver assisted vehicles that are controlled by drivers but provide some assistance.
- Two: Partial automation where a driver must still focus on driving but the vehicle has automated features, like controlling the vehicle’s acceleration and steering.
- Three: Conditional automation where a driver is necessary to prevent accidents and should take control in a serious situation, but the vehicle can handle some tasks.
- Four: High automation where a vehicle is capable of controlling a car in almost all scenarios, but a driver can take control if necessary.
- Five: Full automation where a driver is not required to operate the vehicle.
There are some driverless cars being tested in Arizona right now as part of a rideshare program by Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which is the parent company of Google. Waymo is operating these self-driving cars in the Phoenix area, through a limited rideshare service that uses automated cars to transport passengers in an area that includes Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tempe. These driverless cars are being tested with prescreened riders who have signed nondisclosure agreements with the company, so they are barred from speaking publicly about how these cars are performing.
The Waymo cars aren’t allowed to drive in rainy weather or during dust storms. And although they don’t have drivers inside the cars, they are still being heavily monitored and assisted by Waymo’s technical support team. Each car is fitted with eight cameras that are monitored by Waymo’s remote operators. If the car’s software encounters a situation where it cannot determine what to do, a remote human operator will make a decision about how to proceed.
Driverless vehicles that are being tested on public roads are all subject to insurance laws. These cars are closely monitored by Waymo researchers and must follow all the same laws as other vehicles, according to Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). ADOT also requires testing companies to have auto insurance for their vehicles in case a self-driving car is involved in an accident.
In the future, some traffic accidents may be handled through product liability claims, against either the manufacturer of a vehicle or the company that designed its self-driving system. This could result in larger settlements in many cases, because large corporations have much deeper pockets than a human driver would.
But large corporations also have high-priced lawyers to defend them in court or represent them in litigation. If you were injured by a self-driving car, you would want to have a skilled attorney representing your claim against an automaker or self-driving system designer.
It’s unlikely that driverless vehicles will ever completely replace human drivers. But citizens and lawmakers must get ready for people to start sharing the road with these robot drivers. And we need to create a legal framework that allows victims to receive just compensation in all situations.
No matter how technology changes our lives, solving problems will always require a human touch. The Husband & Wife Law Team has been successfully representing Arizona car accident victims for over two decades, and we’ll continue to seek fair compensation for our clients, whatever type of driver the car has. Let us put our experience to work on your claim. Call us at (602) 457-6222 for a FREE case evaluation.
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During a free consultation, we will look at the important aspects of your case, answer your questions, and explain your legal rights and options clearly. All submissions are confidentially reviewed by Mark Breyer.
Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer