Google Driverless Cars and Accident Liability

Google’s Driverless Cars Create Accident Liability Questions

driverless carsDriverless cars are, like the electric car, becoming a huge focus for car manufacturers, especially Google, which has developed a working driverless car and stated at a conference earlier in June that it would try to begin production in the next few years.

The popularity of such an idea probably stems from the massive problem the United States has with distracted drivers. While drivers have always found ways to distract themselves, usually through playing with the radio, putting on makeup, or eating while driving, the advent of cell phones and smart phones has hugely increased the percentage of distracted driving car accidents. Not only do drivers talk on their phones, they can text; read, write, and send emails; compose social media messages; listen to music; and photograph and film themselves. Distracted driving has reached complicated levels, and it is complicated to legislate.

However, in modern distracted driving accidents, the accident liability usually falls to the driver. With driverless cars, distracted driving is much less likely to be a problem, but who is at fault in a car accident?

“Car makers are already building in technology that may save lives that is designed to detect and prevent crashes. Futurists see the highways populated by fully driverless vehicles, removing human error as a factor in causing accidents. However, no one has mentioned a technological error that may cause an accident. In reality, there is no such thing as a completely safe driver or a completely safe driverless car,” says Austin injury lawyer, Brooks Schuelke.

Michelle Krebs, analyst for, understands that driverless cars “will not be driverless completely — they will be cars you have the choice to drive or not drive. There are so many legal and insurance and regulatory issues, and none of them are being resolved.”

Google’s driverless cars are an especially interesting example. The car will use Google Maps, and the driver will input their location with the car following the recommended path. Many drivers make use of Google Maps anyway – and access to that type of technology on smart phones can lead to distracted driving accidents. The driverless car, however, is programmed to obey all traffic signals, including stop signs and stop lights, and the car does not have a steering wheel, meaning that the driver cannot take over – there is, by definition, no driver.

Because of that, however, when the car does potentially run into a pedestrian or another vehicle, who is to blame?

In 2012, Google hosted talks with several business owners and car manufacturers to discuss the problem of accident liability. With no driver, manufacturers become liable in the event of an accident, as software or hardware would be the clear source of the problem. Google assured the vehicle manufacturers that the internet company would take responsibility for accidents caused by their technology, including their hardware. Representatives claimed that it would be easy to find the cause of the accident, since Google would record data related to the car’s routes. However, that simple statement does not absolve manufacturers of accident liability, and the car companies called Google on the claim.

“I just couldn’t believe my ears and was like ‘Wow you live in a bubble,'” one of the automotive representatives said. “Car makers never get to decide who is at fault. It’s the lawyers, the judge and the jury.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Car Accident Death and Injury Cases

Although many of the people we represent in these cases are from right here in South Carolina, our lawyers routinely take clients from throughout the Southeastern U.S. and, in certain types of product liability or pharmaceutical cases, from across the country as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed through no fault of your own, whether from a defective product or in a car accident, you may have a wrongful death case. Contact the South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free, no-cost consultation today. 803.252.4800

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