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Self-Driving Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 30,000 people are killed and two million more are injured every year as a result of car accidents. These statistics paint a sobering picture, as auto accident attorneys in Denver know all too well. Cars are the fastest, easiest form of transportation for most people, but poor weather conditions and human error can make cars dangerous or even deadly for everyone on the roads.

There’s not much we can do about bad weather. Snow, rain, sleet, high winds, etc. can make driving tough and leave people in precarious traveling conditions. But human error can be corrected thanks to the newest vehicles being tested on the streets—self-driving cars. Google has been testing autonomous vehicles in Nevada and California, and the reports are good so far. 300,000 miles have been driven by the company’s self-driving car without accidents. Based on these results, Google announced plans to release self-driving cars to the general public within the next five years.

Human Error

In eliminating the driver, the self-driving car has eliminated many of the dangers associated with human error when it comes to driving. Some human drivers get behind the wheel when drunk or otherwise intoxicated, as well as when they are tired or sick. They get distracted by phone calls, texts, emails, and even other passengers. They miss or ignore stop signs, speed limits, and other driving requirements and drive too fast or too erratically for the roads on which they are traveling.

The capacity for a human to create an unsafe environment on the road is unfortunately endless and Google hopes to eliminate as much danger as it can with their new model. Their self-driving cars have been designed to accurately judge distance, road conditions, and their surroundings to create the safest possible traveling experience. Without human error, car accident fatalities and injuries should be much lower. But without human drivers, some lawyers say people should expect changes to their legal responsibilities and requirements.

Liability and Legal Ramifications

Because of the high risk for accidents, drivers are required to carry automobile insurance to cover damages to their vehicles and others in the event of a collision. The auto insurance business is a multi-billion dollar industry and costs are high. Without a need to assign liability to negligent drivers, people may be reluctant to pay out huge amounts of money for high insurance premiums.

Although self-driving cars are less prone to human errors that cause accidents, humans will still be “behind the wheel,” so to speak. This could lead to a number of complications, including a person taking manual control of the car at some point during the trip or the existence of previously unknown flaws in the car’s design that are not revealed until a certain real-life driving scenario takes place.

As more and more self-driving cars join the roads in the coming years, auto accident attorneys and legislators will have to come up with ways to designate responsibility for any potential malfunctions or accidents, whether through laws for the manufacturers or legal responsibility assigned to the owners.

At Levine Law, we are excited to welcome new technology that could cut back on accidents and save lives. But in preparing for self-driving cars and other technological advances, it is important to consider the legal angles. If you have questions regarding your car accident, contact one of our Denver auto accident attorneys today. 

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