Self-Driving Automobiles & the Future of Automobile Accident Liability
Many major car manufacturers are rolling out automated driving assistance features such as emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane change assistance and some models offer parallel parking assistance. These features are designed with safety and convenience in mind. In addition to assistance features, some car manufacturers and technology giants are striving to roll out fully automated self-driving vehicles. Self-driving vehicles may be extremely convenient and possibly safer but only if the vehicles are manufactured correctly.
As we all know, technological errors and manufacturing defects can and have happened in the past. There is an old adage, “if man made it, it’s probably not perfect and it can break”. In 2018, a woman was killed by one of UBER Inc.’s self-driving vehicles in Arizona because of some technological error. In these situations, UBER and other major corporations are assumed to be confidentially settling their cases privately without publically getting involved with Court decisions because of their concern of setting bad precedent that might impact their liability in such cases in the future.
With the current automated driving assistance features available and the fast approaching self-driving technology, Florida law and automobile accident laws must adapt in order to have standards in place to protect the public for the inevitable car accidents caused by errors in technology.
Under Florida Law, a person driving an automobile has a duty to use reasonable care while driving. Normally, we can determine who the operator of a vehicle is by simply determining who was in the driver’s seat. The question then becomes who is the operator of a vehicle that is driving itself.
Florida law recognizes the automated driving system, when engaged, shall be deemed to be the operator of an autonomous vehicle, regardless of whether a person is physically present in the vehicle while the vehicle is operating with the automated driving system engaged. Interestingly enough, Florida law would make the automated driving system liable for accidents it causes even if there is no person present in the vehicle. In this situation, the automated driving system manufacturer would be liable, whether that be the autonomous vehicle manufacturer or the developer and manufacturer of the automated driving technology. The Florida Legislature has worked proactively on developing laws regarding self-driving technology in anticipation of inevitable future errors of self-driving technology.
Florida law defines the term "fully autonomous vehicle" means a vehicle equipped with an automated driving system designed to function without a human operator. In 2019, the Florida Senate amended the statute and specifically excluded any driver assistance systems that require human monitoring (emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, etc.) In analyzing the statute, car accidents arising from errors in automated driver assistance features may impute liability on the human operator, the driver assistance system manufacturer or both.
The Attorneys at Moody Law understand that many of the current cars on the market are equipped with driver assistance features and that fully autonomous vehicles are rapidly approaching. With this in mind, Moody Law is working diligently to be prepared for the car accident cases of the present and future. If you believe that your case involves an error in driver assistance technology or automated driving technology, then please contact an Attorney at Moody Law who is prepared to take on your case.