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Attorney Sanga Turnbull

Who’s at Fault When a Driverless Car or Bus is Involved in an Auto Accident?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2020 | Auto Accident

Once imagined only as science fiction, self-driving vehicles are slowly becoming a reality. Driverless shuttles have recently appeared on public roads of Tampa Bay in Florida. Self-driving shuttles launched in downtown Tampa Bay on October 12, 2020, according to The Tampa Bay. Residents now have a chance to ride in driverless shuttles deployed by autonomous mobility company Beep.

Driverless Shuttles in Florida

The self-driving shuttles were launched as part of a one-year pilot program. It is not the first time authorities are testing driverless transportation in Tampa. The driverless shuttle, which is free to ride for all residents of Tampa Bay, will operate from Marion Transit Center to Whiting Street. The shuttle makes four stops on the route.

The operation of the driverless vehicle relies on a map of the area and is managed by a GPS.  Autonomous vehicles, including driverless public transportation, do not have the best reputation after a series of accidents involving self-driving cars in the United States. Particularly, many riders may be reluctant to ride in driverless shuttles after a woman was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona in 2018.

Liability for Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars and Buses

Manufacturers and engineers are confident that self-driving cars and buses can significantly reduce the number of accidents and fatalities on our roads. More than 35,000 people die in car accidents across the U.S. every year, and a large percentage of these deaths are caused by distracted and drunk driving.

Autonomous vehicles could potentially eliminate those risks. However, there are many legal grey areas when it comes to liability for accidents involving self-driving cars. How to establish fault if a driverless car or bus is involved in an auto accident?

Who’s at Fault in a Driverless Vehicle Accident?

When it comes to determining liability for accidents involving autonomous vehicles, it is important to understand what caused the crash:

  • Human error. Even though driverless vehicles are becoming more autonomous, they still rely on human operators. If a human driver has control of the self-driving vehicle, he or she can be held at fault for a crash if they failed to prevent the collision. If the operator of a driverless car is not at fault, the crash could be caused by a human error of the operator of another vehicle.
  • Malfunction or defect. Engineers and manufacturers are constantly improving self-driving technology. However, technology can malfunction even if no human error is involved. Also, the design of an autonomous car can be defective, which can result in a preventable driverless vehicle accident. Either way, the injured victim might be able to pursue a claim against the manufacturer of the defective self-driving vehicle or its parts.
  • Government oversight. A government entity that allowed self-driving vehicles to be tested on public roads could be held responsible for the resulting accidents, especially if the agency was aware of unreasonable risk of harm but launched the pilot program anyway.

If you were injured in an auto accident involving a driverless car or bus in Tampa or other parts of Florida, speak with our Tampa auto accident attorney at The Turnbull Firm. Schedule a consultation by calling at 863-324-3500 to establish fault in your autonomous vehicle crash.