We have posted previously about Georgia’s cautious lead up to driverless vehicles. As technology moves forward, what are the possibilities that manufacturers will be held responsible if and when something goes wrong? If you are the driver of a vehicle that is being driven by a computer, and you are seriously or fatally injured in a car crash or you injure another person who will be held responsible? In a recent tragic situation, a man lost his life when his Tesla vehicle collided with a truck. The vehicle’s Autopilot system was engaged at the time of the accident. Autopilot is found in certain Tesla vehicles. This technology assists drivers in steering and in maintaining their lane. This is called semi-autonomous technology because the vehicle is not completely driverless. Reuters reports that it has not found any current legal actions filed against Tesla for this crash, but it seems clear that eventually there will be litigation that involves this technology.
The federal government has opened an investigation regarding the Florida fatal crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into “the design and performance of any driving aids” that were being used when the crash occurred. If the technology is found to be unsafe, the feds could order a recall these vehicles. Some legal experts are suggesting that the Tesla vehicle itself may have gathered information that could defend its safety. Tesla does advise owners that it reserves the right to use vehicle data to defend itself in litigation. Whether the Tesla vehicle collected data that can help defend the car maker, remains to be seen.
The type of information that could help clarify the cause of an accident might be found in the car’s event data recorders (EDR’s). Car makers are looking more and more to use of high tech in their vehicles. But are these technologies safer? Or will they prove to be more dangerous that the old way of driving … with a driver who is controlling the vehicle continuously.