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Autopilot Car Causing Injuries

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who would like to know if they buy a car with an autopilot technology and the tech causes a crash, who is legally responsible?

The caller did not specifically mention Tesla, but Tesla is back in the news again because one of their cars reportedly was responsible for causing crashes into emergency first-responder vehicles.

Federal safety regulators are investigating at least 11 accidents involving Tesla automobiles using a feature called “Autopilot” that put the car in autonomous mode (meaning the car was driving itself).

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released information regarding these accidents and stated that seven of the accidents resulted in 17 injuries and one death.

The accidents occurred over a 3-1/2 year period from January 2018 to July 2021 and all happened after nightfall. The accidents occurred as the Tesla owners approached post-accident scenes involving first-responder vehicles, flashing lights and road cones.

According to Tesla’s website…

“Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that assists your car with steering, accelerating and braking for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane. They assist with the most burdensome parts of driving and work alongside features like emergency braking, collision warning and blind-spot monitoring.”

Perhaps the computers controlling the autopilot could not adjust to flashing lights surrounding a nighttime accident scene. And since it seems this is a recurring problem that has the attention of the NHTSA, you would think Tesla would make adjustments to this feature.

Tesla’s attorneys likely will argue that the use of the “auto-pilot” feature is the sole responsibility of the driver of the vehicle. But, will warnings and disclaimers protect a car maker that makes a profit by selling a product which it claims is capable of driving itself?  — We have discussed this more fully in Podcast 51 and Podcast 131. – But as the technology advances, this subject will likely be coming up again and again.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”