It is not surprising that the first fatal crash of a self-driving car received significant attention from the national media. The Florida accident that killed Joshua Brown in his Tesla Model S sparked questions about the safety and viability of the new technology. However, the tragic incident also raises important issues for the vast majority of drivers who have no plans of purchasing a self-driving vehicle in the foreseeable future.
A major question that will need to be resolved concerns the liability when a self-driven car collides with another vehicle or a pedestrian. Will car owners be able to shift the legal fault to manufacturers? Legislators and courts will be grappling with these issues for years. Beyond the legal issues directly related to the new technology, Mr. Brown’s deadly accident has implications for everyone on the road, for a number of reasons:
- Driver inattention — It was reported that Mr. Brown might have been unable to take corrective action because he was watching a movie at the time. No matter what type of vehicle is involved, investigating possible distractions from videos, text messages or other forms of communication is now a key part of every accident case.
- Weather and visibility — Tesla has stated that a particularly bright sky on the day of the accident might have led to a miscalculation in the car’s systems. All drivers need to understand that weather conditions do not excuse negligent driving, but they do increase the level of care that drivers must use.
- Safety features and public beta testing — Many people wrongly assume that autopilot capability and other technical advances must be thoroughly evaluated by regulators before being made available for public use. To the contrary, Tesla and other manufacturers use the public to beta test their vehicles, putting the testers and people around them at risk.
No technological advance absolves a car operator of their legal responsibility to others on the road, and no innovation can guarantee your safety, so attentive caution is always required behind the wheel. If you’ve been injured in an accident, an experienced lawyer can help determine where the liability exists and seek compensation on your behalf.
Seigel Law represents motor vehicle accident victims in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free case evaluation.