Tesla Crash Calls Attention to Challenging Issues Posed by Self-Driving Cars

Tesla Crash Calls Attention to Challenging Issues Posed by Self-Driving Cars

TeslaA recent crash in Minnesota involving a Tesla vehicle has garnered considerable attention after the driver and four passengers suffered minor injuries. While the driver of the vehicle initially told authorities the vehicle suddenly accelerated and rolled over after he engaged the vehicle’s self-driving system, he later denied the autopilot mechanism caused the accident.

In an e-mail released by the automaker, the driver said he believed he disengaged the 2016 Tesla’s autopilot system at the time of the crash, and stated he understood he needed to be in control of the vehicle regardless of whether the system was engaged or not.

Tesla, which saw stock prices momentarily dip following initial reports of the crash, further stated there was no reason to believe the vehicle’s self-driving system worked other than as designed. The company also noted that drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to remain vigilant and prepared to take action prior to enabling autopilot.

Self-Driving Vehicles & Auto Accidents

Autonomous vehicles have made waves in recent years as researchers and automakers worked to hone self-driving technology. Today, self-driving cars are touted as the future of transportation, and are expected to revolutionize our roadways and reduce car accidents by cutting down risks posed by negligent drivers.

As the technology rapidly improves, technological capability becomes less of an impediment to adopting autonomous vehicles on a wide-scale basis. However, societal friction and questions involving complex legal, moral, and regulatory issues will likely prevent self-driving cars from roaming public roadways en masse for some time to come.

When it comes to self-driving cars, lawmakers, regulators, insurance providers, and safety advocates will have a great deal to consider. Here are just a few of the issues posed by autonomous vehicles:

  • Fault and liability – While self-driving technology can reduce injuries and deaths on American roads, it is difficult to predict how people will respond to inevitable mistakes. In the early years of self-driving technology, automakers have been blamed and later cleared for serious crashes, including a fatal crash in Ohio involving a Tesla vehicle. However, self-driving cars have been found to make mistakes, including Uber autonomous vehicles that ran at least six red lights in San Francisco. Determining who can be held at fault for accidents and liable for damages in cases involving self-driving vehicles will be a challenging issue, and one where machine error is likely to be viewed more harshly than human error due to expectations of precision. This may become especially true in cases involving auto defects and product liability. The ultimate question will revolve around whether humans or machines (and their manufacturers) should be held liable for accidents and injuries or deaths.
  • Ethics – Autonomous vehicles are operated by artificial intelligence programmed to make decisions in a certain way. This may lead to ethical dilemmas involving choices in situations where there are options of who will live or die. As such, larger segments of society will need to come together to reach decisions about morally and legally difficult choices.
  • Job loss – America’s transportation industry employs millions of Americans, from taxi and ride share drivers to delivery, bus, and truck operators. Should autonomous vehicles have free reign, many of these people could lose their jobs to automation. This includes millions of additional jobs affected by the trickle-down impact of self-driving cars, including stores and services that cater to motorists who need to stop and rest during trips. Weighing job loss and benefits provided by self-driving cars will likely become a considerable political debate as implementation grows closer, not only in American, but in countries across the world as well. Transportation officials in India, for example, have recently announced that they would ban driverless cars in favor of preserving jobs.
  • Security risks – As autonomous vehicles are operated by software, there is the risk that the software can be compromised by hackers. Security risks are a real concern for automakers and regulators, as hackers could weaponized vehicles and cause serious accidents and harm.

As a law firm that has represented injured victims throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas for more than 40 years, Biren Law Group has handled many cases involving new technologies that have had profound impacts on various industries and the safety of individuals. By leveraging our experience and insight, we have been able to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients amid challenging legal issues and gray areas in the law.

If autonomous vehicles serve to highlight anything about the law, it is that our civil justice system is constantly evolving, and must often catch up to new technology. This can be done through the passing of new laws and regulations, or through important legal decisions that set precedent for future cases. By working with proven lawyers, victims harmed in accidents involving new and unique issues such as autonomous vehicles can not only position themselves to obtain successful outcomes and the compensation they deserve, but also help set standards that protect the rights of victims harmed under similar circumstances, or prevent them altogether.

If you have questions about auto accidents involving self-driving cars or any other type of motor vehicle, our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Biren Law Group are readily available to help. Contact us for a FREE consultation.


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