Who Is At Fault When a Self-Driving Car Is Involved in an Accident?

Jan 6, 2020

The automobile industry is highly innovative. This innovation has led to the creation of self-driving vehicles. However, this technology has a long way to go before it becomes widely used on roads across the United States. Several car companies, including Tesla, Chevrolet, and Uber, are in the process of researching and rolling out self-driving technology. This poses an interesting legal question: who is responsible for an accident involving a self-driving car?

Statistics Involving Autonomous Car Accidents

Implementing new technology is often a bumpy road, and autonomous cars are no different. Several accidents involving these types of vehicles have been recorded, including some that have caused serious injuries or death. For example, a 2017 accident in Arizona killed one pedestrian. The self-driving vehicle, traveling 38 miles per hour, struck a pedestrian who appeared with little notice.

Another example involves a 2018 accident where a Tesla Model S crashed into the back of a fire truck while traveling 65 miles per hour. Although there were no injuries, and the fire truck was barely affected, the crash caused serious property damage to Tesla.

Despite the list of self-driving car accidents, once perfected, the technology could potentially save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 94% of crashes are directly attributed to driver error. Having self-driving cars may be a solution to this problem.

When Is the Driver Responsible After a Self-Driving Car Accident?

At this stage of self-driving technology, the driver is still generally responsible for any accidents that occur while he or she is behind the wheel. Most autonomous vehicles alert the driver to disengage autonomous mode and take control of the vehicle when a crash is imminent or when conditions are unsafe. Many crashes happen due to drivers disregarding these warnings.

Self-driving vehicles are not fully autonomous. Until this changes, and cars do not require input from someone behind the wheel, any accident investigation is likely to assign fault to the driver.

When Is the Manufacturer Responsible After a Self-Driving Car Accident?

In some cases, the manufacturer has been named the liable party after an accident. For example, an accident involving a Chevrolet Bolt utilizing Cruize Automation technology tried to change lanes and did not detect a motorcycle in the other lane. The car sideswiped the motorcyclist before returning to the other lane. The motorcyclist sued Chevrolet for the injuries suffered during the accident.

Filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a self-driving car is often difficult due to the complexity of the technology involved. The software and hardware may be supplied by many different companies, making it tough to determine which company is at fault. An experienced South Carolina car accident attorney can help you investigate your particular situation and develop a successful legal strategy.

Seek Damages With the Help of Our Attorneys After a Self-Driving Car Accident


When someone is injured in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, it is crucial to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Explore your legal options by setting up an appointment with members of our Rock Hill office. Call the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. today at (803) 324-7200 for a free consultation.