Who is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident in Minnesota?

Technology has changed everything from the way we learn in schools to even the way we get to school. Self-driving cars have been the new breakthrough in driving vehicles throughout recent years. Though such a mechanical advance is a great step forward in transportation, it comes bearing it’s fair share of burdens.

The Burden of Self-Driving Cars

All across the country, we have seen incidents of self-driving cars causing problems. In one case that made the news, a man fell asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle while it was in autopilot mode. Police were able to slowly stop the vehicle and alleged that the driver was drunk behind the wheel.

In some cases, wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by families claiming that self-driving features caused the death of a loved one in an accident. Recently, the family of a Florida man who died when his Tesla collided with a semi-truck has filed a lawsuit against the automaker. They allege that the autopilot function of the vehicle was defective.

In March of 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. In that case, there was a driver in the vehicle that was supposed to take over if anything went wrong.

Response from automakers

Tesla, as well as other automakers who have automated driving features, argue that their vehicles are safe. Tesla has said that autopilot mode is safe only when used properly. Drivers must always be ready to take control of the vehicle. Failure to do so, they say, is not the fault of the vehicle’s features, but the driver.

Self-driving cars could be on the way to Minnesota

A state task force in Minnesota is moving towards having self-driving cars come to our roadways. The panel drafted a bill that would “allow driverless cars on private roads, and maybe public ones, too, as long as they pass scrutiny from the Department of Transportation.”

“The preeminent question is safety,” said state Sen. Scott Newman. “We cannot put automated vehicles on the road until we are absolutely certain they are at least as safe as a human driver.”

The current laws regarding self-driving cars in Minnesota

We already have cars with automated features in the state. These features include forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot warning. All of those, and even Tesla vehicles with autopilot, are legal.

As Minnesota moves to allow for more testing of these vehicles, laws will have to be developed. Minnesota is interested in potential crash prevention that self-driving cars could bring as well as the economic benefits of self-driving vehicles.

However, the Minnesota DOT cautioned that the bills to bring self-driving cars to the state are in the preliminary phases. There are no official laws regarding the operation of fully autonomous vehicles in the state.

Who would be liable in a self-driving vehicle crash?

In cases like the Tesla wrongful death lawsuit, the battle will be over who is liable – the driver of the vehicle or the company and their technology. If the technology does not work as it should, this could be a product liability case, just like any other faulty product. However, if a driver does not use the equipment as intended, they could be held liable for their negligent or careless actions.

This is a developing area of law in the US, and each case will be unique. Secure an attorney if you or a loved one are involved in a crash with a self-driving vehicle in Minnesota.