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Automatic driving technology, human error, and liability, P.1

Fault is obviously an important issue in car accident litigation, and it is critical for plaintiffs to build to build a strong case for liability. Without doing so, a plaintiff’s case will not go very far. Fault can be proven in a number of ways depending on the circumstances, but the heart of it is demonstrating a failure to exercise reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle.      

One of the interesting areas where fault is becoming an important issue is automatic driving technology. At this point, driverless technology is still in a heavy development phase and is not yet widespread. One of the factors holding back development of the technology is the concern about regulating its use and questions about fault when accidents involving driverless cars occur. And such accidents do occur. 

One of the benefits of driverless technology, of course, is that it largely eliminates human error, including traffic violations, which is what causes the majority of accidents. Ironically, though, the “straight-laced” nature of driverless technology may actually cause accidents. The reasons for this phenomenon make sense to anybody who has even a little experience navigating busy metro roadways during rush hour. The reality is that there are times when it is safer to commit small traffic violations in order to “go with the flow” of traffic than to be completely law-abiding.

Being that driverless vehicles are currently programmed to always obey traffic laws, it isn’t that surprising to see that more accidents involving these vehicles are being recorded. Granted, the data so far shows that it isn’t driverless cars that are at fault, but human reckless human drivers. Still, the data raises interesting ethical and legal questions. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic. 

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