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California Driverless Car Accident Lawyer

The experienced California auto defect lawyers at Bisnar Chase are watching the newly evolving area of autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars. Even as federal and state regulatory agencies come up with laws and guidelines to govern driverless cars, there are several questions about the liability issues posed by these futuristic cars. Although there are vehicles with some degree of automation in the market, fully driverless cars are still in the testing phase.

Still, there are tens of thousands of these autonomous and semi-autonomous cars out there on our roadways. If you or a loved one has been injured by one of these autonomous vehicles or if you have been injured while operating an autonomous vehicle, call the experienced California driverless car accident lawyers at 1-800-561-4887 to discuss your legal rights and options.

What are Autonomous Vehicles?

Self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles are becoming increasingly visible on our roads and in our news headlines. Driverless cars use an array of sensors, cameras, real-time 3D maps and gigabytes of specialized software to see the road ahead, behind and in every corner. Driverless cars are operated by actuators that are attached to the driving columns and pedals. They take in a constant stream of data coming in from all corners of the vehicle and translate it into motions of driving on city streets and freeways. Self-driving cars are able to navigate almost any terrain in any weather condition by incorporating what the car can see into one coherent image of the road.

Are Autonomous Vehicles Available Today?

Not many people realize this. But we've had semi-autonomous cars on our roads for years now. Cars such as those made by higher-end brands such as Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Tesla already have a few self-driving features offered as part of premium packages. Cars can parallel park themselves, apply the brakes if the vehicle senses an impending collision or even course correct the wheel if it detects the driver is drifting out of the lane on the highway without using a turn signal first.

These features may not amount to much more than an advanced form of cruise control, but they use the same sensors that you would find in a fully autonomous vehicle to predict what drivers are doing and react accordingly. Both Google and Tesla have been testing their vehicles in the freeways and suburbs of Silicon Valley for several years now, with no one sitting in the driver's seat. This testing is being done even as legislators are drawing up a set of laws that will govern these driverless cars.

Crashes Involving Autonomous Vehicles

Google self-driving cars have been in accidents, including one known incident where the driverless car was at fault. In this case, a Lexus autonomous vehicle collided with a bus as it was being tested in Mountain View. The crash occurred when the robotic SUV had to go into the center lane to make a right turn around a few sand bags. Both the vehicle and its test driver incorrectly assumed that the bus approaching from behind would slow or stop to let the car through. The Lexus collided into the side of the bus at low speed damaging its front fender, wheel and sensor in the process.

In May 2016, the first fatal crash involving a Tesla semi-autonomous crash occurred. In this crash, which occurred in Florida, a driver was operating a Tesla Model S on Autopilot mode with his hands off the wheel when the vehicle crashed at speed into a turning big-rig. Tesla said that the car's Autopilot was not able to distinguish between the white side of the big-rig and the bright sky.

Since this fatal crash, there have been two other crashes where two Tesla Model X vehicles veered off the roadway and crashed, in Pennsylvania and Montana respectively. In all three cases, Tesla faulted the driver saying that the Autopilot is merely a driver-assist feature and that drivers should always keep their hands on the wheel even when the Autopilot is on and be ready to take over in a moment's notice.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

When a semi-autonomous car crashes, the company that manufactured and designed the car can be held liable. However, there are more complex questions involving fully autonomous, driverless cars. Who will be held liable in cases where driverless cars injure or kill people? The company that made the car? The engineer who programmed it? Or the person sitting in the driver's seat who failed to take action in a timely manner? What if there is a bug or glitch in the vehicle that caused the accident? These are still questions that need to be addressed before we even put these vehicles on our roadways.

Are Autonomous Vehicles Safe?

The answer is to the question of whether driverless cars are safe is: We don't really know. The fatal crash involving the Tesla Model S is a reminder that these new technologies need to be properly tested and deemed safe by federal regulators before they get to consumers. Unless autonomous vehicles are safe and glitch-free, they should not be on the road. When driverless cars are on the roadway and they cause accidents, the at-fault parties should be held liable, just as they are in crashes involving other vehicles. These vehicles have been dubbed as "the future" and proponents say they will take lives. But recent events have shown that they can also take lives. Any move to put these vehicles on the market should be made with extreme caution.

Protecting Your Rights

The auto defect attorneys at Bisnar Chase are closely watching the development of autonomous technology and driverless cars. If you or a loved one has been injured by an autonomous vehicle or a semi-autonomous vehicles, our experienced driverless car accident lawyers can be help you protect your legal rights and options. We have the resources and access to nationally renowned experts who can conduct independent crash testing to prove your case. We do not charge fees unless we secure compensation for you. Call us at 1-800-561-4887 for a no-cost consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.

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