Ten current US senators have co-written a letter to automakers regarding the safety of self-driving vehicles. This letter comes after a self-driving Uber car in Phoenix struck and fatally injured a pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg. This was the first incident of its kind in the US.
The car was in autonomous driving mode, though it had a driver in the front seat in case something went wrong, as is standard practice. The car was also equipped with cameras, radar and lidar (lasers) to detect any impending obstacles. A recent report indicates that the sensors did detect the victim, but that emergency braking was disabled by the software.
The future is here and it's complicated
Self-driving cars have been the topic of great excitement and anticipation in recent years. However, some people are appropriately skeptical of this latest technology. The letter penned by the senators stated, "The innovation driving this technology is exciting, but accountability is critical to ensuring that innovation continues to promote safety first."
Accountability is unclear in cases like this one. As the cars are technically driving themselves, any accident such as this one is not caused by simple human error, as no human was driving the car, even though someone was sitting in the driver's seat. This means that determining who can be held accountable in self-driving car accidents is difficult. The more difficult it is to find fault in a case, the more complicated a case can become and the longer it takes to resolve.
Companies protect themselves with forced arbitration
Forced arbitration has been used in a number of other legal matters, including cases of nursing home abuse. The reason this is so appealing for companies is that, instead of a trial with a judge and a jury, everything is decided by one arbiter, who is all too often on the side of the company facing the suit. "The use of forced arbitration clauses by manufacturers would deprive consumers of their fundamental legal rights if injury occurs, and would reduce the incentives of some manufacturers to keep vehicles safe," said the senators' letter. Forced arbitration clauses keep those affected by an accident from getting the compensation they deserve.
The dedicated Massachusetts car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone believe in holding companies accountable for their actions, especially when those actions cost someone their life. If you have been injured in an accident, contact us today. Our lawyers will provide you with a free consultation regarding your case. We will do everything in our power to get you the care and compensation you deserve.