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Bad Drivers and the Self-Driving Car Technology They Rely On

Self-driving cars and bad drivers, will this technology really work?

We have all seen the commercials of the driver not paying attention and his vehicle stopping before rear-ending another car. But will this technology really work when you add in the unknown factor of bad drivers?

Technology and the Bad Driver Factor?

On a recent trip around the Baltimore beltway I began to think more about this question and the technology being developed by car manufacturers and technology companies like Google. Can you really create a car that will prevent all types of accidents when you have bad drivers and unpredictable scenarios on the road?

And when the cars do crash, who will be responsible? Certainly the self-driving vehicle owner will claim it wasn’t his fault, it was the car that caused the crash. Thus, does the car manufacturer become the liable party and do they pay for the other injured driver’s and passenger’s medical bills and lost wages?

This is a unknown front in the legal field because we don’t know what to expect from the Courts and how they will rule on liability and responsibility after an auto accident. And in States like Maryland where contributory negligence is the rule, if we can’t point to one irresponsible person or company, does the victim lose?

Two Different Types of Technology

From what I have seen and read there appears to be two different types of technology pushed by the car companies and technology developers. The first is the automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology, standard on new vehicles in the U.S.

The second is the self-driving car, where you enter a destination and the vehicle takes you there without any assistance or guidance from the driver.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

I understand the technology and the purpose which is to prevent rear-ender accidents But what happens when the technology cannot prevent what physics will cause? For example, what happens when the road is wet and the vehicle equipped with AEB cannot stop in time? Does the car manufacturer share in the liability for the accident? What if the driver of vehicle 1 in the lead is rear-ended by vehicle 2 because the driver of vehicle 2 was following too closely? What happens if the AEB vehicle tries to avoid a collision and causes a completely separate accident that would have never happened but for the AEB technology?

Self-driving cars and liability

Recently you hear nothing but bad stories coming from the self-driving tests. Reports about a Tesla owner being killed or a Google reporting accidents involving vehicles equipped with their technology. That means either Google is going to be pointing at the driver and saying they were at fault and the driver will be looking to Google to cover their insurance for the accident. Who’s at fault, who should be be responsible for the accident?

Who is at fault for the accident involving a self-driving vehicle?

Bad drivers will never be replaced by technology. I say this with some certainty. In 2015, a USAToday report based on a IIHS survey that the average vehicle on the road is 11.5 years old. That means we will see older vehicles on the road for a very long time and these vehicles will not be equipped with AEB or self-driving.

Those bad drivers that are operating the older vehicles will be using “human” technology, which can be different that what the computers in the cars are operating. This means we will have decisions made by human drivers that are not consistent with the decisions being made by the computers in the cars.

Bad drivers acting irresponsible, driving too fast or negligently

When you have a system where all players are using the same technology, then the new technology may work. I say may with some skepticism. How many times have you have to restart your computer in the past month or year because it just wasn’t doing what you wanted it to do? What happens when a driver in a self-driving car or a car equipped with AEB tries to take control of the vehicle when he or she believes it is about to crash? 

Bad Drivers and the Unknown

There are a lot of questions and unknowns with this new technology. We all welcome it. But do the bad drivers in America and the innocent victims of their bad driving realize who is going to pay?

Attorney Randolph Rice is a personal injury lawyer in Maryland. He represents individuals injured in car accidents. If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, contact his office today at 410.844.5333 for immediate help.

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