Self-Driving Cars Lawsuit
Self-driving cars will soon revolutionize the concept of driving and car ownership, turning “drivers” into passive passengers. Accidents involving self-driving cars have already complicated how we view accident liability.
We are still a few years away from mass production, but autonomous driving technology, specifically Tesla’s Model S, has already allegedly caused two fatal car accidents. Tesla now faces a class action lawsuit for its autopilot program, which plaintiffs argue was sold without standard safety features.
But, Tesla isn’t the only manufacturer who has put unsafe self-driving vehicles on the road: Uber and Google vehicles have also crashed, further weakening manufacturers’ claims that autonomous vehicles are safer than human drivers.
Federal Government Addresses Patchwork Legislation
Self-driving cars are being manufactured faster than relevant laws can be enacted. Currently, only 21 states have self-driving car legislation.
In September of 2016, the federal government created the first Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. The policy leaves the specifics of manufacturing to companies, but offers uniform safety regulations with a 15-point voluntary safety checklist that manufacturers should sign.
Some consumer advocates say the proposed legislation is akin to treating Americans as “crash test dummies.”
But within the last year, a patchwork of state legislation has emerged, ranging from Arizona’s laws which simply require test cars to have a standard vehicle registration, to New York’s regulations which require cars to follow an approved route with a police escort.
To address these inconsistencies, the U.S. House and Senate Commerce Committee have passed federal legislation that would give the NHTSA oversight over self-driving cars. But since both pieces of legislation would also increase the number of vehicles exempted from federal regulations—from an annual 2,500 per manufacturer to at least 80,000 per manufacturer by year three—some consumer advocates say the proposed legislation is akin to treating Americans as “crash test dummies.”
Tesla Autopilot Responsible for Fatal Crash in Florida
On its website, Tesla promotes the safety of its autopilot software, stating that it “helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, and prevents the car from wandering off the road.”
But in May 2016, the Model S autopilot failed to avoid a collision with an 18-wheeler in Florida. The car didn’t detect the truck because of its height and a glare from the bright sky. Joshua Brown, the Tesla owner, was killed. This is the first confirmed death caused by Tesla’s autopilot.
In September, Tesla issued a software update to Model S vehicles that improves its radar technology. Tesla believes this update would have prevented the accident in Florida. Unfortunately, the update comes far too late for Mr. Brown.
Man Files First Self-Driving Car Lawsuit in China
In July 2016, Gao Jubin filed the first lawsuit for the Model S autopilot in Beijing. His son, Gao Yaning, was killed when his Tesla Model S crashed in January. He filed a lawsuit against the Tesla dealer who sold his son the car, arguing that Tesla needs to be more cautious when marketing the autopilot feature and should let owners and potential buyers know that it has defects.
The lawsuit asks for a modest sum to cover damages ($1,500). It has not been confirmed whether or not the death of Gao Yaning was caused by the Model S autopilot. Regardless, this is sure to be the first of many lawsuits filed over self-driving technology.
Tesla Faces Autopilot Class Action Lawsuit
Plaintiffs allege in the complaint that they became “beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous.”
In April 2017, Tesla Model S and X owners filed a class action lawsuit over Tesla’s enhanced autopilot software. The lawsuit alleges that the company sold Model S and X vehicles with the autopilot program—costing an additional $5,000—knowing that the program didn’t work and wasn’t supported with appropriate safety features.
The lawsuit affects Model S and X vehicles manufactured between October 2016 and March 2017: 47,000 vehicles in all.
Plaintiffs allege in the complaint that they became “beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous,” and that when autopilot is engaged, it is susceptible to “lurching, slamming on the brakes for no reason, and failing to slow or stop when approaching other vehicles.”
Manufacturers Could Be Accountable for Self-Driving Car Accidents
These first few accidents raise the question of who exactly is at fault. Accidents involving the Tesla Model S are already more complex than typical car accidents, as both the driver and autopilot software have the ability to operate the vehicle.
Completely autonomous cars—like those that Google is proposing—are a completely different matter, as car owners may be no more than passengers.
Michigan and Florida have taken the lead in self-driving car legislation by permitting fully autonomous cars on the road. In these states, licensed drivers are no longer required to be inside a self-driving car.
Along a similar vein, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently recognized Google software as the “driver” in their self-driving cars. If a passenger lacks the ability to take over the wheel of their car, then we will likely see more cases of manufacturers at fault for automobile accidents.
What Can I Recover from a Lawsuit?
If you operated a car with self-driving technology engaged and it failed to prevent a car accident or you were hit by a self-driving car, you could be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Bodily injury and pain and suffering
- Disability/physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Medical bills
- Lost wages/impaired earning ability
- Vehicle damage and other property damage
Contact Us For A Free Legal Consultation
ClassAction.com attorneys have a successful track record with complex automobile litigation, including winning a verdict of $90 million against BMW. If you were in a car accident involving a self-driving car, you could be entitled to compensation.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation case review. It costs nothing unless we win a jury award or settlement for you.