Imagine owning a car that could drive itself. New Jersey’s roads are some of the busiest in the United States. Many people face long commutes to get to work, and others can spend hours in traffic trying to commute into NYC each morning. Self-driving cars could be the solution to reduce the stress associated with bumper-to-bumper traffic and road-rage present all over our roadways. However, this new driving technology has brought up a new legal issue: Who is liable if a self-driving car is involved in an accident?
Self-Driving Car Technology
Joshua Brown was so enthusiastic about his Tesla Model S, he showcased the car’s Autopilot capabilities, and posted YouTube videos while driving the car hands-free. He was so infatuated with the Tesla that he drove over 45,000 miles in merely 9 months.
Numerous drivers feature autonomous, self-driving cars on social media, and record short movie clips illustrating different features, especially Autopilot, to highlight the Autopilot features and capabilities and to demonstrate how it works.
Joshua Brown’s video titled “Autopilot Saves Model S,” depicts him driving on a highway in Ohio, when a truck cut-off his vehicle. According to his version, Tesla’s Autopilot function swerved the vehicle out of the way of the truck to prevent an accident. The video went viral after Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, posted it on Twitter.
Unfortunately, Joshua Brown became a casualty of an invention aimed exactly at drivers like him when a tractor trailer truck collided with his Tesla in Florida, giving him the dubious distinction of being recognized as the first fatality in an autonomous-driving car.
After he was killed, questions have started about the safety features and capabilities of self-driving cars. Technology is still being developed, and drivers need to become more accustomed to the innovations for self-driving cars. There is still the need for drivers to pay attention and drive the car when required by traffic and road conditions.
Who is Responsible for Accidents with Self-Driving Cars?
In the case of drivers similar to Joshua Brown, an investigation is required to determine whether he was paying attention at the time of the accident. In New Jersey, we have contributory negligence laws. This means that if a driver is 50% or more responsible for the accident, he cannot recover any compensation or award against the other vehicle.
And what happens to victims who are injured in New Jersey in accidents that are caused by self-driving vehicles? Is the technology to blame or is it the owner or “operator” of the self-driving car? Again, an investigation would be required to interview any witnesses and a review of the circumstances and technology involved at the time of the accident. If an operator was making a YouTube video at the time of the accident, it can be presumed that he was not paying attention at the time of the accident.
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident in New Jersey involving a self-driving car, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling personal injury and automobile accident claims. Please see my NJ Car Accident Checklist if you are in an accident. My NJ Injury Lawyer Howard P. Lesnik, Esq. offers free strategy sessions to address any issue or questions you may have about filing a claim for accidents involving self-driving vehicles.
Please contact NJ Injury Lawyer Howard Lesnik, Esq., immediately if you were involved in a NJ car accident involving a self-driving vehicle. I personally handle NJ personal injury and accident cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session.