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Who is liable for a self-driving car accident?

Self-driving (autonomous) vehicles are on the rise as technology finally catches up with imagination. Yet the advent of new vehicles brings new safety issues - and new types of car accidents.

If a self-driving vehicle causes a car accident or strikes a pedestrian, determining liability may take more work than the average car crash. Instead of only another driver, the case may involve an at-fault vehicle manufacturer or technology company.

The vehicle manufacturing company

The manufacturer of the self-driving car could face legal responsibility if the crash stemmed from a defective or dangerous auto part. If the autonomous vehicle collided with a fixed object or another vehicle because something went wrong with the automatic braking system, for example, the manufacturer could be liable. To win compensation for this type of crash, the plaintiff would have to show that the car contained a defect and that the defect caused the accident.

Testing company

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error contributes to 94% of serious car accidents. The NHTSA believes automation could ultimately help prevent collisions. However, companies must conduct stringent and thorough safety tests before allowing self-driving vehicles on public streets. Unfortunately, the race to debut autonomous vehicles faster than the competition has led to some companies cutting corners and ignoring safety protocols. Testing negligence could lead to company liability for accidents.

A driver

Human error can still contribute to self-driving car accidents. Today's autonomous technologies mostly require human operators in some capacity. Negligence or recklessness behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle could lead to deadly single- or multivehicle accidents. The driver could be responsible for damages in these accidents. Human error could also cause a self-driving vehicle accident through negligent roadway maintenance - pointing to city liability.

Many self-driving car accident cases thus far have involved shared liability among multiple parties.

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