The State of Texas has become a leader in the field of self-driving cars following the approval of automated vehicle testing sites and partially autonomous vehicles in 2017. As more self-driving cars drive off the testing lots and onto Texas highways, drivers are expressing their concerns regarding responsibility in car accidents involving self-driving cars.
Although the purpose of self-driving cars is to reduce car accidents caused by human error, some accidents are simply unavoidable. Until self-driving vehicles are fully autonomous, placing liability on a single party may not be so straightforward. Since self-driving car accidents raise extremely complex liability issues, it pays to have a knowledgeable car accident attorney on your side if you’ve been injured in an accident.
Texas Law and Self-Driving Cars
Texas is one of 18 states that has legislative bills intact specific to self-driving cars. Under Texas Transportation Code Title 7, 541.001, a person who drives or has physical control of a vehicle is considered the operator. Therefore, even if the owner does not fully control the vehicle, Texas law 545.454 states that the owner is still responsible for complying with traffic laws. Texas law 545.454 also says the following:
- The operator is liable if a traffic violation occurs.
- The automated driving system must be licensed and able to operate as specified by Texas laws and safety standards.
- The vehicle must have a recording device installed by the manufacturer.
- The vehicle and operator must be insured.
Determining liability in self-driving accidents is demanding, especially since there are multiple parties involved. In Texas, operators, vehicle manufacturers, and software companies may all face partial liability for an accident that occurs.
How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?
Self-driving cars are built with multiple sensors and advanced technological systems that allow them to identify, operate, and respond in different driving environments and situations with little human intervention. Although self-driving cars are often referred to as “driverless” or “autonomous,” current laws require humans to sit in the driver’s seat to monitor the movement of the vehicle and take control of the vehicle when certain conditions arise.
To fully understand how self-driving cars work, The Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) explains the six levels of self-driving automation:
- Level 0 (No Driving Automation): The driver has full control over the vehicle.
- Level 1 (Driver Assistance): The vehicle can assist the driver with certain functions such as steering or braking while the driver monitors other aspects of driving.
- Level 2 (Partial Automation): The vehicle can control steering, braking, accelerating, and decelerating, and the driver can regain control at any time.
- Level 3 (Conditional Driving Automation): The vehicle can detect environmental hazards and make informed decisions such as passing a slow-moving car, but still requires a human override.
- Level 4 (High Driving Automation): The vehicle functions in self-driving mode and can intervene in certain situations, only requiring human interaction in some situations.
- Level 5 (Full Automation): The vehicle fully functions without human attention.
Sensors, GPS data, and computer systems work together to direct the vehicle. While self-driving cars involve high-tech systems that provide hands-free steering, adaptive cruise controls, and lane-centering features, drivers need to be aware that technology isn’t always reliable. This means that drivers always need to stay alert as they can bear some degree of fault for disregarding that responsibility.
Potential Issues with Self-Driving Cars in Houston
The impacts that self-driving cars have on roadway safety are slowly being introduced as companies report potential issues and incidents involving these vehicles. Some of the issues and problems highlighted include:
- Technological malfunctions: Technology in self-driving cars is programmed to pick up on certain conditions surrounding the vehicle. However, most self-driving cars are less effective when bad weather conditions arise. Heavy rain or fog can interfere with the sensors, making it difficult for the vehicle to detect hazards and respond to the driving environment.
- Insufficient regulations: There are limited regulations surrounding technology and safety in self-driving cars. Also, the legality regarding fault in self-driving car accidents remains unclear. Although federal and state officials as well as insurance companies work to implement various regulations and policies, this void may present serious challenges for those that share the roads.
- Passenger motorists: Self-driving vehicles can respond in multiple situations. However, they can’t control how passenger motorists will respond. As self-driving vehicles grow in popularity, the transition may pose difficulties for other drivers.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to self-driving cars—and how additional issues may increase as self-driving vehicles take over the automotive market. In the face of advancing automation, you must remain informed about the potential risks of these vehicles on the roads.
Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyers in Houston Can Help
The car accident and personal injury attorneys at Sutliff & Stout have been following the development of self-driving car technology in Houston from its early stages. If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a self-driving car accident, our team of Board-Certified attorneys can help you seek full compensation for your losses. Life after a devastating car accident is never easy, and we believe it is our duty to help you and your family obtain justice.
At Sutliff & Stout, our aggressive accident attorneys will protect your best interests during negotiations with insurance companies or car manufacturers to ensure you receive positive results. From personalized client services to strong litigation, you can rely on our team to provide quality legal services and compassionate support during this uncertain time. To schedule your free, no-obligation case review, call (713) 987-7111 or complete our contact form today.