With a growing number of self-driving cars on the road, it’s more important than ever to know the risks and benefits associated with them. This knowledge will help keep you safe and ensure that you know what steps to take if you ever get into an accident involving one. The awareness of self-driving car accidents can help guide preventative measures and appropriate actions in the event of an incident.
Let’s take a look at what self-driving cars are, what technology they feature, and what laws apply to Arizona and Utah drivers.
What Are Self-Driving Cars?
Self-driving cars are also known as autonomous vehicles, meaning they can operate without direct human control. With that said, there’s one caveat. Self-driving cars drive themselves until a human operator is needed to take control in an emergency, like if the car malfunctions or fails. They’re not truly driverless—not yet, anyway. The term “self-driving” can be misleading.
Self-Driving Car Levels
Every self-driving car lands in one of six categories.
|Level 0||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4||Level 5|
|The operator controls all major systems.||The car can control one automatic function at a time—like the brakes or cruise control.||The car can control two automatic functions simultaneously. However, an operator is still needed to reach the destination.||The car controls all safety-critical functions, with the operator only taking over in an emergency. Truly autonomous vehicles are rated Level 3 or higher.||The car controls all functions in most situations with no help from an operator.||The car controls all functions without requiring an operator.|
Key Technology Features
Self-driving cars are designed to enhance road safety. They’re equipped with advanced software that reduces the risk of human error, thus reducing the number of car accidents and fatalities that occur annually in the US. Here are the five main safety features that every self-driving vehicle is equipped with.
- Radar: These sensors use radio waves to detect the size, speed, and distance of various moving objects.
- Cameras: These cameras do everything from reading traffic signals and road signs to capturing images of the road for navigation assistance.
- Lidar: The lidar system—which stands for Light Detection and Ranging—uses laser pulses to produce a 3-D image of the car’s surroundings.
- GPS (Global Positioning System): The GPS feature functions like that in standard motor vehicles, providing navigation assistance.
- Ultrasonic sensors: These sensors use sound waves to detect curbs and other fixed objects.
An Overview of Self-Driving Car Accidents
With any new technology, safety is always a primary concern—and for good reason. Consumers want to know whether the product they’re buying is safe to use. It’s no different with self-driving cars.
One factor to consider when discussing self-driving car accidents is the presence of human error. Most self-driving cars on the road today are below Level 3, meaning they aren’t truly driverless and still require an operator to control various functions.
Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 18 of the 419 self-driving car crashes that had occurred as of January 15, 2023, resulted in fatalities. Of those 419 crashes, 263—or roughly 63%—involved Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) cars. The remaining 156—or roughly 37%—involved Level 3 or higher Automated Driving Systems (ADS) cars. All 18 accidents that resulted in fatalities involved Level 2 ADAS cars, meaning that no truly autonomous vehicle had been involved in a car crash fatality as of January 15, 2023.
Now fast forward just five months later. The Washington Post reported that Tesla vehicles equipped with autopilot technology were involved in 736 crashes—including 17 fatalities—between 2019 and June of 2023, according to data collected by the NHTSA. When compared to other car manufacturers that produce driver-assisted vehicles, Tesla is associated with the most self-driving accidents thus far.
The Legal Consequences of Self-Driving Car Accidents in Arizona & Utah
Both Arizona and Utah still hold drivers responsible for accidents caused that involve self-driving vehicles. If any of the guidelines outlined below aren’t followed, the violating operator can face fines or even jail time, depending on the severity of the infraction.
According to Arizona law, all autonomous vehicles must meet certain criteria prior to being operated or tested on public roads. Under the Executive Order, autonomous vehicles are required to be:
- In compliance with all applicable federal motor safety standards
- Able to achieve minimal risk conditions in the event of an automated driving system failure
- Capable of complying with all applicable traffic and motor safety laws
- In compliance with all applicable certificates, title registration, licensing, and insurance requirements
Utah has the following guidelines in place regarding the use of self-driving vehicles.
- The automated vehicle must be able to be operated in compliance with all applicable traffic and safety laws
- Motor vehicles equipped with a level three ADS, which are required by definition to have a fallback-ready user, must be able to achieve a minimal risk condition or make a request to intervene if a system failure occurs
- Motor vehicles equipped with level four and five ADS only need to be able to achieve a minimal risk condition when a system failure occurs
- If involved in an accident, the owner must report the accident, and the vehicle must remain at the scene
How a Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you were involved in a car accident caused by a self-driving vehicle, an Esquire Law attorney will help you:
- Gather evidence
- Determine fault
- Handle negotiations with insurance companies and other attorneys
- Represent the accident victim in court
- Secure fair compensation
Self-Driving Car Accidents FAQs
- Who is liable for a self-driving car accident?
The short answer is that it depends. Given the complex nature of self-driving cars, various parties can be at fault for an accident.
- The manufacturer: Self-driving car manufacturers are responsible for producing products that are safe for consumers to use. If they produce a product that causes harm to consumers, they can be held liable for resulting injuries and damages.
- The owner or operator: Although self-driving cars are increasingly self-sufficient, most on the road today still require an engaged operator to control various functions. As a result, operators still bear some responsibility for any accidents that occur while they’re behind the wheel.
- The software provider: Software providers develop and supply the safety features that self-driving cars are equipped with, like sensors. If this technology malfunctions or fails, resulting in an accident, the software provider may be found at fault.
- How do you prove liability in a self-driving car accident case?
Proving liability in a self-driving car accident case is complicated, to say the least. Since multiple parties can be at fault, shared liability is common. All this means is that more than one party is responsible for causing the accident and must pay compensatory damages to the victim. For example, the operator may be held partially liable for distracted driving, while the vehicle manufacturer may be held partially liable for distributing a faulty product.
- How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a self-driving car accident?
The amount of time you’re allowed to file a lawsuit after being involved in a self-driving car accident depends on the statute of limitations in the state where the accident occurred. The statute of limitations for car accident cases is two years in Arizona and four years in Utah.
- How much does it cost to hire a self-driving car accident lawyer?
The cost of hiring a self-driving car accident lawyer to take on your case depends on the lawyer you hire and how long it takes to finalize your case. At Esquire Law, we work on a contingency fee basis. With the help of our no-fee guarantee, you don’t pay until we win your case. That way, you direct your full focus on your recovery and let us handle the rest for you.
- How much compensation can you get for getting in a self-driving car accident?
The amount of compensation that a self-driving car accident victim can get depends on the severity of their injuries and property damage. Your attorney will gather evidence to estimate your total losses resulting from the crash, which include both economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses are direct financial losses represented by a dollar amount, like medical bills, lost wages, and car repairs. Non-economic losses are subjective losses that can’t be assigned a dollar amount, like pain and suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life.
Contact a Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyer Today
The aftermath of a car accident can be complicated, especially if it involves modern technology like a self-driving vehicle. That’s why Esquire Law is here to help. Our skilled lawyers will help you navigate the complexities of your case and secure the compensation you need to pay for damages.
Don’t wait to get the justice you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.