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Who is Liable in a Self-Driving Uber Accident?

The Atlantic published an article today in the wake of the accident that caused a pedestrian to be killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona.  A link to that article can be found here. This is hardly the first incident involving a wrongful death at the hand of a self driving vehicle.  In 2016 in Florida, a Tesla operating is auto-pilot mode struck another vehicle and killed the driver.  The article asks the question, “What are the legal implications in accidents involving self driving car?”  While the answer might seem obvious, there are quite a few factors that will impact the answer.

First, the article raises the point that this accident happened in Arizona which has declared itself open for business when it comes to testing and operating self driving automobiles.  Arizona’s Governor signed an executive order in August of 2015 which required the Arizona Department of Transportation to take steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on Arizona’s roads.  An investigation into what Arizona did or did not do to make sure the roads were safe for self-driving cars and the general public needs to be investigated.

Obviously, UBER in this case, or whatever company owns the self-driving vehicle involved in the accident is the first place to investigate when it comes to determining who is at fault for an accident involving an autonomous vehicle.  Other self driving-vehicle companies like Lyft, Waymo, Tesla, GM and Intel have set down roots in Arizona too.  Since we know that 96+% of all automobile accidents are the result of driver error, this is the obvious place to start any investigation.

Since we are talking about hardware (a car) and software (the AI needed to self-drive) these accidents might be products liability as well as simple negligence cases.  The manufacturer of both hardware and software involved needs to be investigated.  Products liability claims are usually strict liability actions that ask the question, “Is the product reasonably safe for its intended use?”  Strict liability is not usually available to the victims in Auto accident cases.  It very well may come into play in self-driving car accident cases.

There are lots of other considerations that would be a part of the analysis of any accident involving a self-driving vehicle.  If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call at 312-368-0255.  We are licensed in Illinois, Arizona, Florida and several other states.  Consultations are always free and it is our pleasure to speak with you.

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