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Self-Driving Vehicles: A Legal Crossroads

Self-driving vehicles, also known as autonomous vehicles, represent a significant advancement in automotive technology that could increase safety on our roads and redefine our understanding of mobility. What most drivers don’t know is that self-driving vehicles are manufactured with different levels of autonomous driving capabilities—and that each level can have different implications in a claim if the self-driving vehicle gets into a car accident.

Different Levels of Self-Driving Vehicles

Self-driving vehicles come in various levels of automation, defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (full automation).

  • Level 0 vehicles have no automation, which means the driver controls everything. Traditional and older vehicles are Level 0.
  • Level 1 vehicles include features like adaptive cruise control or lane keeping, but the driver must remain engaged. Many vehicles today could be categorized as Level 1 due to common cruise control settings.
  • Level 2 vehicles can take over multiple functions simultaneously, like adaptive cruise control, acceleration, and steering, but the driver must stay alert and be ready to take control at all times.
  • Level 3 vehicles can manage all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention. However, the driver must remain alert and ready to resume control if the system becomes unstable. This level is where we start to see some true autonomy, but it is not yet foolproof or applicable in all scenarios.
  • Level 4 vehicles can handle all driving tasks in specific environments and conditions without any human input. These vehicles may not have traditional driver controls installed and usually operate in urban areas or on specific routes where all required conditions for automation are met.
  • Level 5 vehicles are fully autonomous and can operate under all road and weather conditions where a human driver could drive. These vehicles require no human attention and might not include a steering wheel or acceleration and brake pedals. Level 5 autonomous vehicles represent the pinnacle of self-driving technology and are still largely experimental (or conceptual) and not available to the public.

Many of today’s vehicles are equipped with Level 1 driving assistance; Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise are both considered Level 2 systems; and Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot is (to date) the only SAE Level 3 automated driving system approved for sale the US.

Self-driving innovations will change how we drive but they also bring substantial legal challenges, particularly when it comes to determining liability in the event of an accident. Holding manufacturers and software developers accountable is crucial to ensuring the safety of all road users as these automotive advances are tested and implemented.

A Case in Point: Self-Driving Car Incidents

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated an investigation into nearly 600 Cruise self-driving cars made by GM, following reports of injuries to pedestrians. These incidents highlight the complex legal and safety issues surrounding autonomous vehicles as GM maintains that their safety record is superior to human drivers. Even if this is true, in two cases, GM’s autonomous vehicles were involved in pedestrian accidents, which prompted an NHTSA study into the safety of these autonomous systems. Furthermore, these incidents underscore the potential dangers associated with self-driving vehicles and the urgent need for legal clarity.

Legal Challenges of Self-Driving Vehicles

The legal framework surrounding self-driving vehicles is still being constructed, and determining liability in the event of an accident is a challenging task. The traditional model of driver liability is ill-suited to address accidents involving autonomous vehicles, in which the “driver” is a complex computer algorithm.

At present, there is no comprehensive federal legislation in the United States specifically addressing liability issues for self-driving vehicles. Instead, the legal landscape is a patchwork of state laws and regulations, creating a lack of uniformity and certainty.

In accidents involving self-driving cars, several parties may be held liable, including:

  • Vehicle manufacturers
  • Software developers
  • Component suppliers
  • Other drivers

Establishing fault requires a thorough understanding of the technology, the circumstances of the accident, and the applicable legal principles. At this point, the help of a highly skilled motor vehicle accident attorney essentially becomes a necessity.

Seeking Justice for Victims of Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents

At Schlesinger Law Offices, we are dedicated to championing the rights of people injured in self-driving vehicle accidents and their families. Our firm has a proven record of accomplishments in handling complex liability cases that resulted in our clients receiving the justice and compensation they deserved.

Some of our impressive recent successes include:

  • $30.5 million won for the family of a man who suffered a brain injury in a car accident.
  • A $15 million verdict won for a man who was rendered quadriplegic after being struck by a drunk driver.
  • A $60 million verdict against General Motors after a vehicle was engulfed in flames due to a fuel-fed fire.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a self-driving vehicle accident, you may be eligible to file a product liability claim, depending on the circumstances that led to the accident and your injuries. Get legal counsel from Schlesinger Law Offices, where our commitment to client satisfaction and maximized recoveries is unmatched.

People choose Schlesinger Law Offices first for self-driving vehicle accident claims because:

  • We have recovered more than $165 million in recent settlements and verdicts for product liability clients.
  • We have brought successful product liability claims against major defendants, including automakers and Big Tobacco.
  • We are a legacy law firm with more than 70 years of practice experience handling all types of injury claims and class action lawsuits.
  • We are trial attorneys who are committed to seeing every case to its conclusion, which means litigating and appealing when necessary.

Reach out today for a free consultation with our self-driving vehicle accident attorneys, who are always ready to help you protect your rights and demand the compensation you deserve.

Self-Driving Vehicle Accident FAQ

  • Can I file a claim if I was injured by a self-driving vehicle?
    Yes, if you were injured due to a malfunction or failure of a self-driving vehicle, you may have a product liability claim. Contact our attorneys for a free consultation and explore your legal options.
  • What can I expect from a product liability claim?
    A product liability claim may result in compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
  • Why choose Schlesinger Law Offices for your self-driving vehicle case?
    Our firm brings extensive experience, a dedicated team of attorneys, and a commitment to justice and client satisfaction. We understand the complexities of product liability law and can even litigate your case in court if needed.