New Self-Driving Safety Features & Auto Accident Liability
The Delray Beach, Florida car accident attorneys at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green, Injury Law Firm are fascinated by technology. We find it very interesting how our very old legal system is able to keep up with new technology. As it relates to auto accidents involving self-driving or advanced safety features, it is logical to ask “who is responsible for the crash–the car or the human?” However, before delving into the legal system, we should discuss three new self-driving safety features that have become widespread in the auto industry.
New Self-Driving and Safety Features
Adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and blind spot monitoring are the latest advancements in car safety. A number of sedans, SUVs, and minivans are adding these features because they help in the overall safety of the car. They are also advancements that help in passing the five crash tests as required by the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Adaptive cruise control (ACC) also known as autonomous cruise control or radar cruise control is an automatic system that adjusts your car’s speed based on the car in front of you. The driver will set the maximum speed and it will automatically adjust whenever you are in traffic or at a standstill. When activated, the radars warn you to keep the proper distance and to brake when needed.
On the other hand, automatic braking is a system that warns you from getting into a frontal collision. It automatically slows down your car whenever it detects something in front of you that is traveling at a much slower rate than your own car. It’s done with the use of laser sensors or radars. It then checks the speed of the car to determine if a collision is possible. If it is, signals will be given to the driver and begin to apply the brake. However, there have been some concerns with automatic braking systems. Specifically, quick and hard braking of the system (especially if used at the wrong time) can trigger a rear-end collision of its own.
Blind spot monitoring is a system that detects other cars traveling alongside the host car’s blind spots. The systems use radar or digital imaging to detect other cars nearby. When another car is driving in the host car’s blind spot, the host car will send a message to the driver not to change lanes. The message usually is in the form of a light located on the mirror or dashboard. Some vehicles use sounds to indicate detection of another car present in the blind spot.
ACC, Automatic Braking, and blind-spot monitoring are relatively widespread safety features these days. Here is a listing of 15 of the lowest price cars which have some or all of these new safety features available.
- Toyota Corolla
- Kia Niro
- Hyundai Elantra
- Honda CR-V
- Mazda 3
- Mazda CX-3
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Crosstrek
- Volkswagen Jetta
- Hyundai Ioniq
- Toyota Prius
- Honda Accord
- Nissan Sentra
- Subaru Impreza
- Honda Civic
Legal Analysis of Self-Driving Car Crashes
Now that we have an understanding of the self-driving safety features, let’s discuss how the safety features will play out in a car crash lawsuit. Florida Law follows a pure comparative negligence standard. This means that each party to the lawsuit is only responsible for their percentage of negligence that contributed to the accident. In some cases, a single party may be found to be 100% at fault for an accident. In other cases, multiple parties may be responsible for varying amounts of responsibility but the total percentage of all responsible parties must equal 100%.
As it relates to car crashes and advanced safety features, there are three possible outcomes for assigning responsibility.
- 100% Liability on the Driver: If a driver fails to act in a reasonable and prudent manner they may be found to be the sole, proximate cause of the crash. In these circumstances, the driver would be 100% responsible for the victim’s injuries. A large majority of auto accidents are found to be a result of human error. Further, car manufacturers have taken an additional step to protect themselves by placing literature in their driving manuals indicating the driver must not solely rely upon these driver assist tools while operating their cars. For now, the language will likely protect auto manufacturers. It seems to be common consensus within our community that we have not yet accepted the idea that a person can fully rely on their car to drive itself. As time goes on, and it becomes common practice for people to solely depend upon these driver assist tools, the warning literature in driving manuals may not be enough to shield the car manufacturer from liability.
- Shared Liability: If a safety feature on a car is negligently designed, or fails to operate properly, car manufacturers can certainly be responsible for an auto accident victim. However, the question still remains as to whether the human driver of the vehicle acted as a reasonable and prudent driver should have acted given the specific set of facts surrounding the crash. Odds are, the driver could have and should have been monitoring the road ahead to prevent the crash. If this is the case, a jury may assign partial fault to the driver and partial fault to the car manufacturer.
- 100% Liability on the Car Manufacturer: There are certain circumstances where an auto accident is solely caused by a defective car. The driver could not have taken any reasonable action to prevent the crash. We have seen cases like this arise where cars have been known to suddenly accelerate on their own due to defects with the gas pedal or acceleration model. But, as it relates to new safety features and self-driving cars, there are very few cases involving a defective car. This is primarily as a result of auto manufacturers being careful to warn drivers that these systems should not be trusted to operate the cars without driver oversight. For now, much of the blame is being placed on the negligent drivers. However, we are nearing a time where car manufacturers will build and market a car that is intended to drive itself. When that happens, we anticipate seeing more claims directly filed against car manufacturers.
Aronberg, Aronberg & Green are highly experienced and proven personal injury attorneys. Call us today at 561-266-9191