While many fans of 1980s and 1990s movies were expecting there to be flying cars by now, due to the dangers that would pose, it is much more likely that self-driving cars will eventually be the future of automotive travel. There have been several different methods for developing a self-driving car, including ones that would require special guiding roadways, but because the infrastructure costs would be prohibitive, any design that ultimately succeeds will probably have to work on already existing roadways.
Google in the Silicon Valley is developing one self-driving car prototype that has gained significant notoriety. Their new self-driving car is already being tested on public roadways in California.
But for the first time, one of these cars has been involved in a car accident that has resulted in personal injury, according to a recent news article from News 7 Boston.
The current fleet of self-driving prototypes consists of 20 Lexus SUVs that have been heavily modified to include over two-dozen cameras and automated control systems. While the car is designed to be self-driving, state law requires a person be behind the wheel of any self-driving car operating on public roads, so he or she can take over operation of the vehicle in the event of an emergency.
In this recent accident, there was an emergency driver and two technicians in the SUV. Authorities say the SUV was traveling at approximately 15 mph, driving itself. There were two other cars in front of the SUV, and the three vehicles were headed toward an intersection where the light was green. Traffic on the other side of the intersection was at a standstill, so the lead car stopped on its side of the intersection, so as not to “block the box” by getting trapped in the intersection when the light changed. The Google car stopped at this point, as did the other car in front of it.
At this point, another vehicle did not stop and rear-ended the Google SUV. It was reportedly traveling at around 17 mph at the time of the collision. The three occupants of the Google SUV were taken to a local hospital, where they complained of whiplash, which involves an injury to the cervical spine around the head and neck area, and were cleared to return to work that same day. The driver of the car that allegedly hit the Google SUV also reported having neck and back pain.
As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, if self-guiding cars ever become standard on American roads, this will bring up new issues of liability never contemplated before. If the self-driving car was found responsible for causing an accident, does this mean there is a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the car, or does it mean there is some claim of negligence against a human operator for not taking over in the event of an emergency? However, it would seem that most drivers in a self-driving vehicle would not be paying attention, so that will probably lead to significant litigation in future car accident lawsuits.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment: 1-888-367-2900.
Google self-driving car involved in first injury accident, July 16, 2015, 7 News Boston
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Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Stacking, July 3, 2014, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog