Whenever there is a motor vehicle crash involving two or more vehicles, the actions of the drivers usually determine who must pay for which damages. However, with automated and autopilot vehicles becoming more common, determining fault is becoming more complex.
Who is liable when a crash involves an automated or autopilot vehicle?
Factors that determine liability
Even the most advanced current self-driving technology requires an attentive human driver to be at the wheel. Human drivers in these vehicles may be liable for failing to prevent accidents.
If a flaw in an automated system contributes to an accident, the manufacturer of the vehicle may also share some fault. This is one reason why most self-driving vehicle technology is still in the testing phases. Manufacturers must ensure that the technology is safe before selling these cars to the public.
Autonomous vehicle laws
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes the position that the current technology requires drivers to remain attentive and ready to take over if automated technology fails. However, it acknowledges that policymakers need to address advances in technology as self-driving vehicles come closer to being available to the public.
While some states have passed legislation specific to automated and self-driving vehicles, many states have not. Louisiana legislation currently only addresses automated freight carriers and drivers for hire. It is likely the state will consider additional legislation when fully autonomous vehicles come closer to operating on public roads in the state.
Without specific legislation that addresses automated vehicles, the same rules of the road apply to automated vehicles as to human drivers.