Who is liable when an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash?

Motorists in Texas must take the safety of themselves and other drivers very seriously. However, with the emergence of autonomous vehicles, which are becoming more and more common on the road, many drivers question just what will occur if they’re involved in an accident with one of these cars. While this area of the law is still largely undecided, Insurance Journal looks at some of the factors that may influence liability.

While it’s true that driver error is responsible for a majority of crashes, recent accidents involving autonomous vehicles have garnered quite a bit of attention in recent years. In one case, a fatality involving the driver of a Tesla in Autopilot mode and a large commercial truck has come under scrutiny. While the driver of the commercial vehicle holds some responsibility for not yielding as required by local traffic laws, the Tesla’s Autopilot function failed to identify the presence of the truck and apply the brakes accordingly.

Of course, nearly all drivers have some level of liability coverage as mandated by state laws. Questions arise when it comes to who is ultimately liable for crashes involving autonomous vehicles. Some point to the manufacturer of the vehicle for failing to implement the proper safety features. Others still cite technology companies that contribute to the creation of such vehicles by designing and manufacturing essential components. Further down the line are the drivers of these vehicles.

With many types of driverless technology, manufacturers require drivers to assume responsibility for operating a vehicle regardless of its capabilities. For instance, in the case cited above the driver could have prevented the accident had he applied brakes in time. At this time both insurance providers and lawmakers are struggling to address the unique liability issues revolving around autonomous vehicles. Because these vehicles will continue to play a vital role in transportation, this subject is bound to receive increased attention. 

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