The promise of autonomous (also known as self-driving) vehicles has been touted for years, with the goal being to optimize commutes across California. The added benefit of living in the heart of technological innovation has certainly helped, with many strides being made in recent years relating to the prevalence and overall awareness of autonomous vehicles on the road in California.
Despite this, autonomous vehicles still grapple with numerous legal and regulatory hurdles. Overall, the main concern is making sure these vehicles are safe to use and interact with on the road. As this technology continues to advance, it will make these vehicles even safer and more popular. In the meantime though, you and other drivers in California have to prepare for being involved in accidents with them.
Legal Support From Rideshare Law Office
When you’ve been injured in an autonomous vehicle accident, Rideshare Law Office and our team will be there to help you. We understand both the advantages and disadvantages linked to this technology. Our team of California rideshare accident lawyers can navigate the intricate process of seeking damages. Beyond that, we offer the essential legal support and counsel you’ll need. Contact us today to set up a free consultation to get started.
How Many Autonomous Vehicles Are There in California?
In order to understand the challenges that come with sharing the road with autonomous vehicles, it’s helpful to first understand just how many there are on the road in California. Again, the availability of and media attention given to autonomous vehicles has seen an increase in investment and production of these vehicles in recent years.
While the number of autonomous vehicles on the road varies, data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) shows just how popular they are becoming. In 2022, autonomous vehicles recorded 5.7 million test miles throughout California.
Also, there are currently four companies that have DMV permits to deploy autonomous vehicles in California:
- Cruise, LLC
- Mercedes Benz
- Nuro, Inc.
- Waymo, LLC
So, with these manufacturers in place, the likelihood that you’ll have to encounter an autonomous vehicle while you’re driving in California. For some, there may even be the opportunity to use one of these vehicles. Before that happens, though, it’s important to understand how they operate.
How Are Autonomous Vehicles Operated in California?
Under Section 38750 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC), an autonomous vehicle is defined in California as any:
- Vehicle that can be operated with technology that allows driving without active physical control or monitoring by a person.
Autonomous vehicles, often referred to as self-driving cars, rely on a combination of advanced technologies and sensors to navigate and operate without human intervention. Here’s a simplified overview of how an autonomous vehicle typically works:
- Sensors – Autonomous vehicles are equipped with an array of sensors that provide them with real-time data about their surroundings. These sensors include:
- Lidar – Lidar uses laser beams to create detailed 3D maps of the vehicle’s environment, including the positions of objects, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
- Radar – Radar sensors use radio waves to detect objects and measure their speed and distance.
- Cameras – High-resolution cameras capture images and videos of the surroundings, helping the vehicle identify lane markings, traffic signs, and other visual cues.
- Ultrasonic Sensors – These sensors are used for close-range detection, such as parking assistance.
- Computer vision – The vehicle’s onboard computers process the data from the sensors using computer vision algorithms. These algorithms can identify objects, predict their movements, and make decisions based on the visual data.
- Mapping and localization – Autonomous vehicles rely on detailed maps of their operating area. They compare the real-time sensor data with these maps to determine their precise location on the road. This process is known as localization.
- Route planning – The vehicle’s software calculates the optimal path to reach its destination while considering factors like traffic conditions, road rules, and the presence of obstacles. Path planning also involves decision-making, such as when to change lanes or make turns.
- Control systems – The vehicle’s control systems, including its steering, acceleration, and braking mechanisms, are adjusted based on the path planning and sensor data to execute safe and precise maneuvers.
- Machine Learning – Autonomous vehicles often incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their performance over time. They can learn from past experiences and adapt to various driving scenarios.
- Redundancy and safety – Autonomous vehicles have redundant systems to enhance safety. If a critical component fails or an unexpected situation arises, the vehicle can take appropriate actions, such as pulling over or stopping.
- Communication – Autonomous vehicles can communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies. This communication can enhance safety and traffic efficiency.
- Testing and validation – Before autonomous vehicles are allowed on public roads, they undergo extensive testing in controlled environments. They must demonstrate their ability to operate safely and reliably in a wide range of conditions.
Obviously, as this technology continues to improve and evolve, autonomous vehicles will become even more prevalent on California roads. However, for the time being, the technology can lead to malfunctions and other issues that result in accidents.
Accidents and Injuries That Can Happen With Autonomous Vehicles in California
While autonomous vehicles are technologically advanced, they are still designed to function like a normal vehicle. As such, they can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a normal car when you meet it on the road in California. However, because of its design and capabilities, accidents with these vehicles often have the same underlying causes–and result in similar patterns of injuries–in California:
- Sensor problems – Because autonomous vehicles rely so heavily on its sensors, problems with them frequently lead to accidents.
- Software errors and glitches – Like any other technology, an autonomous vehicle’s computer program or software might have bugs or issues, causing it to make mistakes.
- Human mistakes – Even with autonomous capability, humans can still make errors, like not taking control when needed.
- Interacting with other cars – Autonomous vehicles must interact with regular cars, which can be unpredictable.
- Bad weather and road conditions – Tough weather or road conditions can be challenging for these vehicles.
- Cybersecurity threats – Hackers could attack and disrupt the car’s systems.
- Pedestrian and cyclist safety – Sometimes, autonomous vehicles may incorrectly respond to or deal with pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Complex traffic situations – Busy intersections or merging lanes can be sometimes challenging for autonomous vehicles
- Emergencies – Autonomous vehicles sometimes respond incorrectly or may not know how to deal with emergency vehicles–especially in crowded areas.
Remember, autonomous vehicles are carefully tested and regulated to be safe, but accidents can still happen due to these factors. Moreover, given the scenarios in which there are accidents, they frequently lead to the same pattern of injuries as regular vehicles. These include:
- Neck and back discomfort
- Head trauma, including Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
- Headaches and migraines
- Soft tissue wounds
- Cuts and bruises
- Fractures and broken bones
- Rib bruises and cartilage tears
Like any car accident that involves injuries, it’s extremely likely that you’ll need immediate medical care to deal with your injuries. Then, as you move forward, you may need ongoing care and may experience lost wages from missing work, among other changes. That’s why it’s important to understand how the law approaches these types of accidents.
How Does California Law Approach Autonomous Vehicle Accidents?
If you’re involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, you might be wondering what your legal options are–especially if there’s no driver in the vehicle. While this is indeed a unique situation, the good news is that the law approaches these accidents the same way as any other vehicle accident.
Thus, Responsibility for damages falls on the party found to be negligent and responsible for the accident.
However, a significant distinction arises when assessing negligence in autonomous vehicle accidents. The complexity lies in the absence of a human driver to attribute negligence to for failing to exercise reasonable care. Despite this, the fundamental components of negligence still apply in these accidents, including:
- Duty of care – All parties involved in the accident are obligated to act with reasonable care to prevent harm to others.
- Breach of duty – If a party fails to act with reasonable care, it constitutes a breach of their duty of care.
- Causation – The negligent action is the direct cause of the accident.
- Damage – The accident results in some form of harm, be it property damage, injuries, or fatalities.
Given these criteria, responsibility for a autonomous vehicle accident in California can be ascribed to one or more of the following entities:
- Autonomous vehicle company or operator – If a company operates the autonomous vehicle and fails to adequately maintain or operate it, they may be held accountable for the accident.
- Manufacturer or the vehicle or software – If a defect in the shuttle’s design or manufacturing is the cause of the accident, the manufacturer can be held liable.
- Other drivers or pedestrians – If the actions of another driver or a third party (like a pedestrian or cyclist) lead to the accident, that party may bear responsibility.
- Local or state government – Poor road conditions or inadequate signage could implicate the local or state government in the event of an accident.
In essence, while determining negligence in autonomous vehicle accidents can be intricate due to the absence of a human driver, the principles of liability and responsibility still apply, with various parties potentially held accountable based on the specific circumstances of each case.
What Should You Do If You’re Involved in an Autonomous Vehicle Accident in California?
Much like the law approaches autonomous vehicle accidents the same way as normal accidents in California, so too should you or any other accident victim in terms of what you should do in the aftermath of one. As such, if you’re involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle in California, it’s important to:
- Move your vehicle to a secure location, such as the roadside or away from traffic, to avoid further risks.
- Assess both yourself and any passengers for injuries. If anyone is injured, call for an ambulance immediately to receive essential medical care.
- Report the car accident to the police. They will conduct an investigation and generate an official report. Be sure to inform them if the other vehicle was autonomous and had no human operator.
- Capture photos and videos of the accident scene, including any damage to your vehicle. If there are witnesses, request their contact information and inquire if they have additional evidence, like photos or videos. This evidence will strengthen your case and provide valuable insights as to your legal options.
Remember, taking swift action following any car accident is crucial, but is especially so after one with an autonomous vehicle. Seeking legal assistance from our team can greatly enhance your chances of obtaining the financial support you need for your losses.
Damages Available in a California Autonomous Vehicle Accident
Once you’re able to pinpoint exactly who or what is responsible for causing your accident with an autonomous vehicle in California, our team can then assist you in filing a claim for damages. Simply put, having our team on your side in cases where the other vehicle is autonomous and lacks a human operator can make the legal process much simpler for you and your family.
Regardless of who is liable, our team can assist you in navigating the legal process of recovering damages. This can involve utilizing your own insurance coverage or attempting to locate the autonomous vehicle company or identifying a human operator. In general, through the claims process, we can help you recover:
- Medical expenses, both past and future.
- Lost wages, both past and future.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Permanent disfigurement or disability.
- Decreased quality of life.
- Funeral and burial costs in cases of wrongful death, along with other significant damages.
Unfortunately, car accidents involving autonomous vehicles can lead to significant damages and injuries. Therefore, it’s crucial to have our team of experienced autonomous vehicle accident lawyers on your side to help you through this sometimes challenging legal framework.
Frequently Asked Questions
Two years, which is the same as any other car accident. This is the statute of limitations for any car accident claims in California.
This depends on your policy, but it’s likely. Further, companies testing autonomous vehicles are required to carry insurance coverage in California. If you’re injured in an accident, you may be able to seek damages from the vehicle operator’s insurance or other liable parties.
Investigations typically involve reviewing data from the vehicle’s sensors, analyzing any available video footage, interviewing witnesses, and assessing the actions of all parties involved.
Contact Rideshare Law Office Today For a Free Consultation
At Rideshare Law Office, we understand that any car accident you’re in brings a lot of difficulties and challenges. However, when there’s an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, it can be particularly challenging because you’ll be dealing with unique technology and companies with vast resources.
Our team of rideshare accident lawyers know how to handle these claims and how to put your case in the best possible position to succeed. We’ll help you gather important evidence, find the responsible party, and support you through the claims process. Don’t wait–contact us today for a free consultation.