In the wake of the recent incident involving one of Google’s self-driving cars crashing into a bus, an important question arises. Who is legally liable when an accident involves a automated feature? From warning lights to self-driving, cars are becoming more and more technologically enhanced. When is a does a feature become a safety necessity? When a defective feature causes an injury, is the manufacturer legally liable? These questions are tricky but important for manufacturers to know when building cars with new features. Even more importantly, consumers need to know how to protect themselves should a vehicle feature cause an injury.
Future Self-Driving Car
Google’s robotic car functioned fine until it encountered some bags of sand in its lane. The car slowed down to avoid the obstruction. As the car slowed, the bus behind it attempted to maneuver around it into the center lane. The bus driver did not yield, was eating a sandwich, and driving with one hand. As a result, the bus hit another driver and the Google car as it attempted to pass. The bus was traveling at 15 mph and the car speedometer clocked only two mph at the time of the accident. Google explained that it expected the bus to yield. So, in effect, the Google car failed not because it could not properly drive, but because it couldn’t react to the poor driving behavior of the bus driver. Mixing robots in with imperfect human behavior is tricky.
Each new generation of cars is equipped with more automated features and crash avoidance technology. Indeed, many of today’s medium and high-end priced cars have many automated features, such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warnings and lane-departure warnings. These features are hybrids of yesterday’s 100 percent human driven cars and tomorrow’s 100% percent self driving cars.
From Feature to Requirement
As technology progresses, safety enhancement “features” become a legal requirement. For example, for years the seat belt was a nice feature until 1983 when regulation mandated every vehicle be equipped with a seat belt. Only time will tell which features will prove to be more of a danger than a safety measure and which features will be incorporated in every vehicle by law. For now, take advantage of enhanced safety features but use your best judgment to keep you and your passengers safe.
If you have been injured in a car accident due to faulty technology, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the situation. To speak with one of our Columbus, Ohio, car accident attorneys contact the Ohio Car Accident Lawyers today.