Self Driving Cars: Not as Close as We Thought?
Contributed by Sean T. Keith
Autonomous or nearly autonomous technology is here—sort of. Last year I bought a new car for my wife, an Acura RDX, and quickly realized that if the car drifts out of the lane it will make an obnoxious noise and nudge the car back into place. There are also several cars on the road today that include automatic braking technology, which could prevent many catastrophic and deadly collisions between cars and pedestrians and cars and other vehicles. There are rumors that Mercedes is within months of putting autonomous tractor trailers on the roads.
Unfortunately, car manufacturers may be exaggerating the progress in significant ways. Some of the claims are not supported by the realities of the road. For example, this video is from a Volvo public relations event where the company was showing off autonomous braking features:
Things became more serious when Volvo used one of its salespeople to demonstrate the tech with a pedestrian:
And this year, one the first fatalities in the United States linked to autonomous cars occurred when an Uber self-driving vehicle killed a pedestrian walking in a crosswalk. Although Uber attempted to cast blame on the human driver, the facts outlined in the National Transportation Safety Board report were not so clear-cut, and Uber settled with the family ten days later.
Although currently most car accident cases are focused on human error, in the future more and more lawsuits will be filed against the car manufacturers. In a related context, we often see cases in which a mistake is made by a driver, but then a defect in the car design exacerbates the injuries. For example, a roof may collapse and fail to hold or a seatbelt may improperly detach.
Earlier this year, I spoke with two attorneys—Seth White and Mason Boling—about the current state of self-driving cars and the surprising challenges preventing their widespread use. Listen to that discussion for free on the Inside Look at Legal Podcast:
For more information, contact Sean at 479-621-0006 or fill out the contact form on our website.
Sean T. Keith is a founding partner of Keith Miller Butler Schneider & Pawlik, with offices in Rogers and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Sean heads up the injury department for the firm, which includes a division devoted to car wrecks and lawsuits against auto manufacturers for car and truck defect cases. The firm also pursues product liability claims against pharmaceutical companies for bad drug and medical device injuries.
Keith Miller Butler Schneider & Pawlik is your trusted team—when it counts.
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