Self-Driving Cars Coming to Florida Fast -- But Are They Safe

Soon more self-driving vehicles will be on the roads you are currently traveling. Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google, is now partnering with AutoNation to put more self-driving vehicles on the road here in Florida.

AutoNation is based in Fort Lauderdale and is the nation’s largest automobile dealership chain. Recently they entered into an agreement with Waymo to provide repairs and maintenance for its Chrysler Pacifica fleet. They will also include other vehicle models under the agreement as Waymo incorporates new lines.

 

Waymo was birthed in 2016 after eight years of development in Google’s research branch. It opened a production facility in Michigan in May 2016, where Chrysler Pacificas were fitted with sensors. Last fall the vehicles were tested in Chrysler’s facilities. In addition to partnering with Chrysler, Waymo partners with other major companies including Avis and Lyft.

 

Waymo isn’t the only company with a self-driving vehicle initiative. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Apple, and Uber are all working on their own technologies to put more self-driving vehicles on the road.

There’s still a big unanswered question about self-driving cars, though: just how safe are they – and what happens if you get into a crash with one?

 

Self-Driving Cars are Not Accident-Proof

 

One of the biggest oft-mentioned benefits of self-driving vehicles is that they are actually much safer than human-driven vehicles. Self-driving vehicles are run by computers, which follow driving laws to the tee – unlike people. For example, self-driving vehicles are programmed to come to a complete stop at every intersection and perfectly obey speed limits.

 

That being said, accidents can and do happen. In fact, you may have seen photos on social media of crashes involving self-driven vehicles. Here are just a few examples that got some attention:

 

  • A self-driven Volvo crashed in Tempe, Ariz. in an accident with two other vehicles last March. No injuries were reported, and the cause was attributed to a human-driven vehicle that failed to yield.
  • A Chevrolet Bolt got rear-ended at an intersection in San Francisco, Calif., but it was only traveling one mile per hour.
  • In Mountain View, Calif., two Waymo prototypes got rear-ended at the same intersection when they stopped to yield to oncoming traffic.

No other state besides California requires detailed accident reports when a self-driving vehicle is involved, but the findings of the most recent aggregate report are interesting. Out of just over 30 crashes, hardly any injuries were reported, and almost every one of them occurred at low speeds and intersections.

 

Companies like Waymo continue to test self-driving vehicles to improve how they interact with human-driven vehicles, and developers are working on ways to make computers more responsive to scenarios they have not previously encountered, simulating the split-second judgment humans sometimes need to make in driving situations.

 

However, as more self-driven vehicles share the road with human drivers, more accidents are likely to occur no matter how sophisticated the programming becomes.

 

This begs the question: Who is liable in an accident involving a self-driven vehicle?

 

Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents and Liability

 

Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents and Liability

 

Amnon Shashua, a co-founder of Mobileye, one of the industry’s top software companies for self-driving sensors, has proposed a set of guidelines for determining who is at fault in accidents with self-driving vehicles. These are the main components of his proposal.

 

  1. All self-driving vehicles will adhere to a standard of operation that fits normal driving situations with other vehicles.
  2. The standard programming for self-driving vehicles will prohibit the vehicle’s computer from choosing a risky option that may cause a crash.
  3. In the event of a crash, the vehicle’s sensor data should be made immediately available to authorities.
  4. If the human driver of the other vehicle is determined to have caused the crash, the self-driving vehicle would not be held liable.

If a proposal similar to Shashua’s is adopted, automakers will not be liable for crashes as long as a self-driving vehicle malfunction did not occur. The proposal will need the support and adherence of automakers, insurers, and regulators.

 

In exchange for a release of legal liability, automakers will need to prove that self-driving vehicles are significantly safer than human-driven vehicles. Each year in the United States, almost 40,000 fatalities occur due to vehicle crashes. Shashua estimates that if the whole fleet of U.S. vehicles was self-driven, that number could drop to only 40 per year. That staggering difference is why so many companies are scrambling to put more self-driven vehicles on the roads you drive.

 

Fort Lauderdale Auto Accident Lawyer

 

As more self-driving vehicles enter Florida highways, we are committed to keeping up with liability laws to defend you if you are injured in an accident. Contact us for a free consultation, and we will help you determine who is responsible for your injuries and work to get you the compensation you deserve.

 

About the Author: 

Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.