Will Boston lead the automated-driving charge in the not-so-distant future? Boston Mayor Martin Walsh thinks so. Mayor Walsh announced in November that the city and Cambridge-based tech company nuTonomy would sign a deal for nuTonomy's cars to hit the streets of "The Walking City" and begin their testing.
While the safety of these vehicles was initially called into question, the company assured that one of their engineers would be riding in the vehicles to monitor the testing, and would be ready to take over driving if necessary. The prospect of driving sans driver is the stuff of sci-fi movies, and the subject of skepticism. Boston is known for its web-like roadways, famous for speeding and unexpected merging. How would self-driving cars navigate without getting into a car accident? And, just as importantly, who would be held responsible for such a crash?
Self-driving vehicles raise significant liability questions
We're all too familiar with the system of car accident liability. If you caused the accident, you are at fault. But what if the driver's seat is empty? It seems that autonomous vehicles would make the claim process that much more complicated.
Last year in California, a modified and self-driving SUV belonging to Google caused a crash. While avoiding a collision with sandbags in its path, the car hit the side of a bus. The report showed that the car assumed the bus driver would slow down for its approach. While this is an assumption a human would make as well, the vehicle should be able to bring itself to a safe stop.
Legally, the liability for the accident can't sit with the passenger of the car. The companies behind the software that enable the car to drive in the first place are coming to claim responsibility for accidents, as well they should. Google and Mercedes-Benz have already taken this plunge, and Volvo has likewise stated that it will take responsibility and pay for any injuries and property damage sustained in an accident caused by its IntelliSafe Autopilot system. It's likely that more companies will follow.
However, a company successfully ensuring adequate compensation could prove to be more complicated. That's why you should always have reliable legal representation on your side, and should be prepared to contact a skilled attorney. While that system has a projected debut date of 2020, this year's roads have already seen (and will see) cars on autopilot.
Self-Driving Cars Are Already Here
Michigan has already allowed companies to test self-driving vehicles on their roads. A package of four bills was passed last year allowing self-driving vehicles on any Michigan roadway. While Michigan's testing seems to be well regulated, Bostonians have some concerns. If the cars rely on GPS, what will happen when they go under the many tunnels that run through the city and famously hinder the abilities of GPS navigation?
Add in the factors of close-knit traffic with reckless drivers on the highways and roads, and unpredictable weather conditions, and city residents may be a bit hesitant when opening their ride-hailing app on their smartphone. Safety plans and software that will adapt to local driving conditions will help the company's cases, and they must keep government officials up to date with specific details about their testing progress.
However, the question of liability still remains. Just because a company says they will shoulder responsibility, doesn't mean that accident compensation will be a smooth, fast or easy process. You'll need strong legal representation on your side if you are involved in an accident with a self-driving car. You'll need the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone.