The very first article I saw on this topic was posted here at Ehline Law. In that article, Michael Ehline argued that injury attorneys might need to find a new cottage industry if they want to stick around, or perhaps do products lawsuits against the developers of the technology if there are mass casualties due to a failure. Google announced a fully functional prototype of a self-driving car and is seeking manufacturers in the auto industry to use the technology, with hopes of the vehicle being available on the market within five years.
This sounds exciting to have this level of technology, but what effect will this have on collisions with other cars, pedestrians, and lawsuits. Will the vehicles slow down or come to a stop no matter how distracted the driver is or if they are under the influence if another auto or pedestrian is in the path of the self-driving car?
Annually there are approximately 30,000 people who die in car crashes in the United States, with another two million injured. Most of these accidents occur due to some type of human error. And the numbers have decreased over the years with upgrades in safety equipment, such as seatbelts and airbags. The human error factor will change with the use of self-driven autos, which could also mean a reduction in personal injury claims and lawsuits theoretically when they emerge on the market.
The change in human error because of the software involved resulting in the vehicle automatically slowing or stopping, thereby reducing the number of deaths and injuries that may also reduce insurance premiums. The other reduction may be for personal injury lawyer’s services with the self-driving vehicles factoring out the common errors drivers make or driving under the influence.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, President Adrian Lund said he doesn’t believe the self-driving vehicles will be on the market for consumers soon, because of the insurance and legal obstacles. Personal injury attorneys have little to worry about currently because the auto regulators and insurance companies so far are not thrilled with vehicles that do not require a driver.
While federal regulators stated they would do more research on this technology and potential safety benefits, some states permit professional drivers to test the functionality of autonomous vehicle controls. But there are no laws or insurance plans for everyday drivers to use non-driver vehicles on public roads.
In any event, at least half of people in the UK refuse to ride in one of these cars, so public perception worldwide, and the technology itself has a lot of proving to do. But this is a snapshot of the future and why lawyers need to be enterprising.