Two Late December Crashes Involving Autonomous Vehicles Kill 3 and Raise Questions

Autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles are becoming more and more popular these days. At the same time, more accidents involving these vehicles are making the news. Many of these accidents are high-speed collisions and several have had tragic results. On December 29 alone, two accidents involving vehicles with autopilot technology killed three people. When these accidents hurt or kill people, someone is legally responsible for the harm that has been caused, whether that someone is the driver or the auto manufacturer. If you have been injured in an accident involving a vehicle with autopilot or driver-assist technology, you should reach out promptly to an experienced Chicago car accident attorney about your case. Your skillful attorney can help you do the discovery necessary to find those truly responsible and hold them accountable.

Two different December accidents – both involving Tesla vehicles and both involving fatalities – have once again brought Tesla’s autopilot feature into the spotlight. In one accident, a 23-year-old woman was riding with her 25-year-old husband when their Tesla Model 3 slammed into the rear of a parked fire truck along Interstate 70 in rural Putnam County, Indiana. In that accident, which occurred just before 8:00 a.m., several emergency vehicles (including the fire truck) were parked in the left lane to deal with an earlier incident. All of the emergency vehicles had their flashing lights on. Despite that, the Tesla barreled into the fire truck “at a high rate of speed,” according to Car and Driver.

In the other accident, a speeding Tesla Model S ran a red light in Southern California and crashed into a Honda Civic, killing the two occupants of the Honda. Reports indicate that these are not completely isolated incidents. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has, according to Reuters, investigated nearly two dozen accidents that involved self-driving or “driver assist” systems. More than half of those (14) involved a Tesla vehicle, with the Indiana crash representing the 14th.

Other incidents with less-tragic results have also hit the news recently. In early December, a Tesla driver in Connecticut engaged the vehicle’s autopilot technology so that he could check on his dog in the car’s back seat. Ahead, a State Police officer was assisting the driver of a disabled vehicle. The Tesla crashed into the police car, then into the disabled vehicle and “finally came to a stop with some assistance from a second state trooper,” according to a CNET report. Although no one was seriously hurt, this accident could have had catastrophic or tragic results.

Determining whether blame lies with the driver or the vehicle manufacturer

There are several ways a driver can be liable in an autonomous vehicle crash. If the owner of the autonomous vehicle improperly failed to do maintenance for which he was responsible and that failure led to the vehicle’s crash, then the owner could be held liable. Alternately, if the driver was using the vehicle’s driver-assist technology in a way inconsistent with its operating instructions, then that too could lead to a finding of liability against the driver.

On the other hand, there are also ways that the facts can demonstrate that blame falls upon the automaker. If you can obtain and present proof that the flaw is in the driver-assist technology itself, then that could potentially lead to a finding of liability by the automaker.

Both the Indiana and Connecticut accidents involved vehicles with driver-assist technology. In one, the autopilot definitely was turned on and it may have been turned on in the other. In both, a failure to spot emergency vehicles parked in the travel lane of a roadway led to the vehicle’s slamming into those emergency vehicles at a high rate of speed. If you had an injury like this and you were able to find proof that a flaw in the driver-assist technology led to the vehicle’s failure to spot stopped objects in the travel lane (like parked emergency vehicles with their lights on,) thereby failing to brake and/or change lanes in time, then that could mean that the car maker is liable for the harm your suffered, whether you were in the autonomous vehicle or were in a vehicle struck by the autonomous car.

New technology can lead to wonderful benefits. Sometimes, though, new technologies, when they are released to the public in a flawed state, can lead to injuries and even deaths. If you were hurt in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, you may have a claim for substantial compensation from the maker of the autonomous vehicle. Talk to the skilled car accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca about your best legal options. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.