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Will fatal self-driving accident have repercussions?

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Oct 16, 2018 |

Headlines across the country have been discussing what many believe is the first fatal car accident involving an autonomous vehicle. The crash involved an Uber self-driving vehicle, and the company immediately pulled their self-driving vehicles off of the road so they could investigate the circumstances of the crash. The police are looking into the wreck as well.

The accident occurred at an intersection where a 49-year-old woman was trying to cross the street with her bike. As she was doing this, the self-driving car — which had a 44-year-old test driver in the driver’s seat — plowed into her. The wreck was fatal, with the 49-year-old perishing from her injuries. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, meaning the test driver had no control of the car.

What is interesting about this is that the vehicle was traveling over the speed limit prior to the wreck — 40 miles per hour in a 35 MPH zone — and that the police discovered no signs of the vehicle attempting to stop. Should the test driver have taken over at some point in the lead up to the crash? Was the test driver reading a book or unaware of his surroundings simply because he thought the vehicle was fine on its own? What about the vehicle itself? Why didn’t it stop in time or obey the speed limit.

Self-driving cars may promise a safer future, but they won’t completely solve the motor vehicle accident problem. In fact, they may create some new problems on their own.

Source: CNN, “Uber self-driving car kills pedestrian in first fatal autonomous crash,” Matt McFarland, March 19, 2018