Since 2015, a number of states have allowed companies such as Audi and Tesla to test autonomous vehicles on their public roads. Recently, Illinois joined that group and enacted legislation that regulates the testing of self-driving cars within the state. As the testing of these vehicles picks up in the coming years, it brings us closer to the day when self-driving cars will be widely sold and used in our country. In fact, that day could come within the next two decades, industry experts told The Drive.
The manufacturers of self-driving cars and the companies that make autonomous vehicle hardware and software hail the safety benefits of these vehicles. However, as a recent fatal self-driving car accident in Arizona underscores, autonomous vehicles can still get into crashes. For this reason, it is important to know the legal issues that these types of car accidents present.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we have secured more than $1.5 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients in Chicago and throughout Illinois over the course of more than three decades. We have achieved success by adjusting with the times and staying on top of the latest developments in litigation. To discuss how we can help you after a collision involving a self-driving car in Illinois, call or reach us online today.
What Are Self-Driving Vehicles?
Self-driving cars are also commonly called “driverless cars” or “autonomous vehicles.” They feature a combination of hardware and software that allows the vehicles to navigate through traffic with little to no human input. By taking humans out of the equation, the cars remove human error – and that should make our roads safer in the future, many believe.
Not all autonomous vehicles perform the same level of self-driving. Researchers rate autonomous vehicles on a scale of 0 to 5. The higher the number, the less input required from the human operator of the vehicle. Here’s how the scale works in more detail:
- Level 0 – Motorists control all major systems
- Level 1 – A few different systems are autonomously controlled such as automatic braking and cruise control. However, the systems must function one at a time and not simultaneously.
- Level 2 – In vehicles at this level, two or more autonomous features can operate at the same time such as steering and acceleration. Motorists are still required to operate the vehicles.
- Level 3 – All safety functions in the vehicle are autonomous. However, motorists can take over the functions when sensors alert them.
- Level 4 – These vehicles can be fully autonomous in certain scenarios.
- Level 5 – These cars are fully capable of self-driving in all situations.
As The Drive reports, several automakers plan to roll out Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles for consumers by the mid-2020s.
Does Illinois Allow Self-Driving Cars?
Illinois, along with 28 other states, has enacted several laws related to self-driving vehicles and permit testing of them on their streets and highways. For instance, late last year, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill that prohibits local governments from taking measures to ban self-driving cars on their roads. Lawmakers pushed the bill forward largely in response to repeated attempts to pass local laws in Chicago that would have prohibited the use of self-driving cars within the city.
In addition to state legislatures, the federal government is getting involved in the regulation of self-driving vehicles. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed The Self-Drive Act. If enacted, the bill would allow manufacturers to apply for exemptions from certain safety regulations. The lawmakers behind the bill say it could open the road to 25,000 self-driving cars in the first year after it is enacted and up to 100,000 within three years. The bill is currently before the U.S. Senate.
Who Is Liable If You Are Hurt in a Self-Driving Car Accident?
Throughout the country, a number of collisions have occurred that involved self-driving vehicles. Still, to date, no court has ruled on liability in these types of accidents. All cases have been settled out of court, Fortune reports.
Liability in a self-driving car accident likely will come down to the simple question: What caused the crash? Consider these scenarios:
- If the self-driving vehicle is under the driver’s control and not in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, and the driver does something negligent to cause the accident, the driver could be liable for any resulting injuries.
- If the self-driving vehicle has a defective part that is unrelated to its autonomous features, the manufacture of the vehicle could potentially be liable for negligent design, testing or assembly of the defective part. For instance, a car may suddenly accelerate due to a defective gas pedal – not due to a flaw with its self-driving technology.
- If the self-driving vehicle is in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, and a defect linked to the autonomous hardware and/or software causes the accident, then the manufacturer of the technology and/or the auto manufacturer should bear legal responsibility for paying victims’ damages.
Because of the complex nature of autonomous vehicles and the many different companies who may be responsible for a car’s components, many scenarios could exist in which multiple parties are liable.
How Can a Lawyer Help You After a Self-Driving Car Crash?
As you can see, a self-driving car accident raises potentially difficult legal issues. Of course, the technology and equipment that go into self-driving cars can be difficult to understand as well. This is why you should work with a law firm that can turn to highly knowledgeable experts in a variety of different fields in order to establish what went wrong in a self-driving car accident. For instance, at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we regularly work with auto engineers, technology experts and accident reconstruction specialists to analyze the evidence in car accident cases. Experts can determine the factors that caused a self-driving car crash and help us to identify who should be held responsible for those factors.
The manufacturers of self-driving vehicles and related technology have a lot at stake. They have invested a lot of money to develop these vehicles and get them to market. So, you can expect that they would vigorously challenge any claim that a defective vehicle or autonomous feature caused a crash. A lawyer from Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., however, will know how to aggressively protect your rights and fight for all compensation you are due.
Our Chicago Autonomous Car Accident Attorneys Will Protect You
When it comes to self-driving vehicles, the future will be here before we know it. Fortunately, our law firm is prepared for it. If you were injured in a car accident of any kind through no fault of your own, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., to discuss your case. We can provide a free, immediate consultation through our offices in Chicago and Waukegan.