What Dangers Do Autonomous Vehicles Pose?

Vehicles that drive themselves with help from electronic sensors and guidance systems – “autonomous vehicles” – are already on the road in Texas. If you are injured in an accident with a driverless vehicle, you’ll need to contact a Texas car accident lawyer as quickly as possible.

How does the law regulate autonomous vehicles in Texas? How will liability be determined if you are injured in an accident that involves an autonomous vehicle? Will you be allowed to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and additional damages and losses?

How Are Autonomous Vehicles Regulated in Texas?

Texas Senate Bill 2205, which became law in 2017, regulates the operation of driverless vehicles in this state. The law provides for the consistent regulation of driverless vehicles across the state and forbids local governments from establishing their own rules for these vehicles.

Driverless vehicles are equipped with an array of technology – cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS devices – that enables the vehicle’s artificial intelligence to make decisions about choosing routes and identifying road signs, traffic lights, other vehicles, and pedestrians.

Under the Texas Transportation Code, an autonomous vehicle must be licensed and inspected, and the owner is considered the operator of the vehicle for the purposes of compliance with Texas traffic laws, “regardless of whether the person is physically present in the vehicle while the vehicle is operating.”

Do Autonomous Vehicles Cause Accidents?

In Austin alone, more than thirty complaints about autonomous vehicles were reported from July through September 2023. Across the nation, from July 2021 through August 2023, more than 380 accidents that involved autonomous vehicles were reported.

One potential danger of driverless cars is that the technology will fail – a “glitch” or a software error, for instance. There’s also the risk of fire, as autonomous vehicles use lithium-ion batteries.

If traffic or weather conditions warrant, a self-driving vehicle may alert a driver to retake control of the vehicle. This is where the law can get complicated. What if a vehicle warns a driver to take control, but the warning goes unheeded? Or what if there is no driver? Who has liability?

Who is Liable When Autonomous Vehicles Cause Accidents?

The law in Texas requires all drivers in this state to carry liability insurance that covers bodily injuries or death and damages to the other automobile or the property of others. Traditional legal concepts of negligence apply in Texas traffic accident cases.

An accident investigation almost always identifies which driver was at fault for an accident and how that driver’s negligence contributed to the accident and injuries. Negligent drivers who cause injuries in this state are liable and may be required to compensate those they have injured.

Insurance companies like to avoid paying for damages caused by their policyholders, so a car insurance company may insist that a driverless vehicle accident is a product liability case and that liability should be assigned not to a driver but to the manufacturer of the driverless vehicle. And in some cases, manufacturers will in fact be liable.

Is Your Traffic Accident Case a Product Liability Case?

If you are injured by a negligent motorist in a Texas traffic collision, in most cases, your Texas traffic accident attorney will file a claim against the negligent driver’s car insurance company and will work to recover your compensation from that company.

However, if neither driver was negligent, the crash may have been caused by a defect in the manufacture or design of one of the vehicles. In the case of a driverless vehicle, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the manufacturer of the vehicle’s self-driving technology may have liability.

If you are injured in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, get as much information about the vehicle and its owner as you can, and after you’ve been treated for your injuries by a medical provider, promptly contact the offices of a Texas car accident lawyer to review your rights and options.

How Will Your Lawyer Handle Your Accident Case?

If you and your lawyer agree to move ahead with your injury claim, an investigation will be performed to determine which party or parties have liability for your injury. Your lawyer will review your medical records, the police accident report, and any photos, eyewitness statements, or video of the crash.

In some cases, and especially cases that involve autonomous vehicles, more than one party may be liable. Most claims based on traffic crashes are resolved out-of-court when your lawyer meets with the lawyer (or lawyers) for the liable party (or parties) to negotiate a settlement agreement.

If liability for your accident is in dispute or if no reasonable settlement offer is forthcoming in the private negotiations, your lawyer may take your case to trial, explain to a jury why, how, and to what extent you were injured, and ask the jurors to order the liable party or parties to compensate you.

What Else Should You Know?

The recorded data in a driverless car can be used to reconstruct an accident, but that data can also reveal private details about where a vehicle has been. Protecting privacy is a genuine concern in these cases. Another concern is hackers, who may soon have the ability to take over or even steal driverless vehicles by remote control.

Liability for traffic accidents that involve self-driving cars is still a developing area of the law, so if you are injured in such an accident, you will need to work closely with your Texas traffic accident attorney, and you’ll need to heed that attorney’s advice.

Let Mike Massey Law Handle Your Traffic Accident Claim

Whether you’ve been injured by a car with no driver or by a negligent driver, the team at Mike Massey Law will review your accident case with no obligation or cost. If you move forward with a personal injury claim, you will owe no attorney’s fee to Mike Massey Law until we have recovered the compensation you are entitled to by Texas law.

The goal of our accident attorneys at Mike Massey Law is to settle your personal injury claim quickly and to bring your claim to its best possible resolution, whether outside of the courtroom or at a personal injury trial.

If you’ve sustained an injury in an accident with a negligent driver or an autonomous vehicle, or if this happens to you in the future, call Mike Massey Law immediately – at 512-400-4430 in Austin or at 713-489-7360 in Houston – to learn more or to begin the personal injury process.