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Self-driving cars and accident liability

Self-driving cars are now being tested in a few states by their manufacturers, and eventually they will be driving on roads in Arkansas. Normally after an auto accident, the driver who caused the accident can be sued and his or her liability insurance will cover some of the resulting damages. Many observers are wondering who will bear responsibility for an accident caused by a self-driving car.

Representatives of a few of the companies that are currently developing these vehicles have indcated that their companies would be responsible for damages in the event of a crash caused by an autonomous car. Test cars have performed poorly during adverse weather conditions and still have problems deciphering hand signals from pedestrians. While the technology is intended to improve safety, it is unlikely that the first self-driving cars released will perform perfectly.

In some cases, it could be difficult for a self-driving car to perform the right maneuver when a split-second decision is required. For example, if the car needs to avoid a multi-car accident in front of it, swerving could be just as dangerous if road conditions are crowded on both sides of the car. Only four states currently allow testing of autonomous cars on public roads. For autonomous cars to work properly, a nationwide mapping system will be necessary. Therefore, developers are advocating for new laws to be enacted at the federal level. Without new laws in place, they fear the the U.S. could fall behind in developing the new technology.

While many car accidents are caused by negligent drivers, the responsibility for a collision involving a self-driving car may be more difficult to pinpoint. It is likely that, as they become more popular, self-driving cars will be in these types of incidents, and an attorney for an injured victim will review the accident investigation report and other evidence in order to determine the party or parties that should be held financially liable.

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