Did you know the average American spends 101 minutes driving every day? That’s almost a month of driving every year. 

With the ongoing development of driverless vehicles, we have the potential to revolutionize our daily commute and transform our overall quality of life. 

The advancement of vehicle technology has reached new heights, and the era of cars driving themselves may be closer than ever before

However, what does this mean for the world of personal injury law? As driverless cars become more prevalent in Texas, the issue of liability arises: who is responsible when an autonomous vehicle causes a collision? 

If you’ve been in a crash with a self-driving vehicle, how can you receive the full value of your injuries? Here is an overview of the current landscape and legal implications surrounding autonomous vehicles. 

What is an autonomous vehicle? 

In the near future, it won’t be uncommon to come across a fully driverless vehicle in Texas, where an empty car will take you to your destination. 

Driverless vehicles, also known as autonomous vehicles or AVs, utilize advanced sensor technology such as lidars, radars, and cameras. These sensors work together to provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings. 

The data collected from these sensors is then processed by the car’s artificial intelligence system, allowing it to make informed decisions about navigation, route selection, and interactions with traffic lights and road signals. Additionally, GPS is used to track the location of the vehicle. 

Self-driving cars have captivated the auto industry, sparking fierce competition among companies to develop them. Currently being tested in Houston and other Texas cities, some AVs are driving themselves with a human behind the wheel as a safety precaution. 

Here are some key developments in driverless technology: 

  • An autonomous car from Audi completed a 3,400-mile journey from San Francisco to New York in 2015, handling 99% of the drive on its own. 
  • Companies like Cruise have already deployed driverless cars for public use in Austin during nighttime hours. 
  • Volkswagen aims to launch autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing and goods delivery services in Austin by 2026
  • Uber has plans to have a driverless fleet on the roads by 2030

The future of driverless cars is rapidly approaching. Even the U.S. Secretary of Transportation anticipates widespread use of autonomous vehicles within the next decade

In Texas, there has been a supportive environment for testing and operating these vehicles. However, as driverless cars become more common, ongoing regulatory review will be necessary. 

While some experts believe that in the near future, autonomous vehicles will primarily serve transportation for people with disabilities and provide delivery services in sparsely populated areas, the long-term impact on human drivers is still uncertain. It is too early to predict the full extent of their influence. 

What are the risks of self-driving cars? 

As driverless vehicles continue to develop, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers involving autonomous vehicles. 

Cruise’s AVs in Texas have raised concerns, with reported incidents including collisions, near-misses, and complaints received by the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department this year. 

One collision occurred on September 18, when a Cruise vehicle merged in front of a resident’s car and left the scene without stopping. Another incident involved two Cruise AVs and emergency vehicles at an intersection. Additionally, a Cruise AV crashed into a brick wall in Austin on August 23. These incidents were part of 33 complaints received by the department from July 8 to September 25. 

Despite these incidents, Cruise has stated that their AVs have driven over 4 million miles without life-threatening injuries or fatalities. In fact, compared to human drivers in similar environments, Cruise AVs had 65% fewer collisions overall. 

As automated driving technologies are continuously refined and tested on public roads, it is crucial for companies and the state to prioritize proper regulation and safety. While the future of driverless cars is promising, it is important to acknowledge that some Texans may find them a nuisance on the road, and there is potential for collisions

How will self-driving cars impact personal injury law? 

Liability in AV collisions presents a challenge for regulators and insurers, who traditionally base rules on human driving behavior. Determining fault in driverless car crashes will likely be complex and depend on various factors. 

Self-driving cars could impact personal injury law in the following ways: 

  • Responsibility for a crash in autonomous vehicle collisions might shift from individual drivers to car manufacturers. Product liability claims may arise when a crash occurs while the vehicle is on autopilot. 
  • Black box recorders, which record flight data in airplanes, may be placed in some self-driving vehicles. These devices could become crucial sources of information for determining the cause of a crash. 
  • Even if a driver uses autopilot mode in a self-driving car, they might still be responsible for a crash. In personal injury law, fault is determined by negligence, meaning drivers must exercise reasonable care to prevent collisions. Owners or drivers of autonomous cars may still be held liable in certain situations, such as overriding the autopilot system and causing a crash. Negligence in vehicle servicing or maintenance can also contribute to liability if it causes a collision. 
  • In general, liability for a crash involving autonomous vehicles may fall on various parties, including the driver of the autonomous vehicle, the driver of a regular car involved in the crash, or the car manufacturers who produced or designed the driverless vehicle. If multiple parties are at fault, a jury can determine each party’s share of blame. 

As autonomous vehicles become more common, driver negligence may become less relevant, shifting the focus of liability towards manufacturers or other parties involved. 

If you’re involved in a case where liability is at issue, it’s important to consult with an experienced car crash lawyer. They can provide guidance and help navigate the complexities of determining fault in incidents involving driverless cars.