Skip to Content
Free Consultations 888-918-9890

Who Is Responsible for a Self-Driving Car Accident?


It feels like we live in a world that is becoming a lot like sci-fi movies from the 80s – driverless cars and drones are almost passe, and the world is little more than the little black screen in your hand. While companies like Tesla have their minds on the future of cars and transportation, there is another side to the coin. The safety of self-driving vehicles has proven less than consistent, which raises the question, “who is responsible for a self-driving car accident?”

What Is a Self-Driving Car?

Autonomous vehicles are a point of contention among inventors and tech developers. Generally speaking, they are the combination of artificial intelligence and traditional car mechanics that accentuate the benefits of both for the driver.

For marketers, self-driving cars are the future on wheels with artificial intelligence and an opportunity for divers to take their hands off the wheel knowing they are in good hands. For engineers and programmers, these vehicles are their magnum opus – a masterpiece. For drivers and fans of Elon Musk, autonomous vehicles make driving exciting again.

No automaker sells a pure autonomous system, but most of them are working toward that goal in the future. Most self-driving cars aren’t self-driving per se, they offer autonomous driver support often with parking and proximity detection. Tesla, Chrysler, and Google are working on increasing automation for drivers.

In general, self-driving cars fall under different levels of automation:

  • Level 0: The car only reacts to the driver’s input. In other words, automation only occurs if the driver permits it.
  • Level 1: The car can occasionally intervene to keep the driver safe. This may include steering adjustments to maintain lane position and adaptive cruise control.
  • Level 2: The car may have multiple autonomous features that work together like speed adjustment, lane centering, and other safety protocols. At present, Level 2 is one of the most sophisticated driving systems on the market.
  • Level 3: The car can drive itself under certain conditions as long as the driver is prepared to take over when the task is complete. Vehicles in this class often include parking assist programming that allows the driver to take their hands off of the wheel while the car takes care of the rest.
  • Level 4: The car can drive itself on a fixed loop on known roads. The driver does not have to take over control at any time.
  • Level 5: The car can drive itself on any road, under any conditions. There are no steering wheels or pedals. Vehicles in this class remain in the realm of theory, but carmakers are optimistic about their development in the near future.

So, who is at fault when the driver-assist program performs in error? Are you responsible, or is the automaker to blame?

Negligence and Automation

Most self-driving cars on the road today rank no higher than Level 3. Most Level 3 vehicles are expensive and scarce due to their experimental nature, but it is essential to understand the margin for error. Cars with Levels 0-3 automation capabilities still need the driver to take over control once a task is completed.

That said, if an autonomous vehicle causes an accident, the driver may still carry some liability for the accident. For example, if you own a car that can park and pull out on its own, but you fail to take the wheel once the system completes the task, you are responsible for whatever happens from that point forward.

Additionally, autonomous vehicles have become a solution to transportation and ride-sharing in some states. However, there have been incidents where one of these vehicles will cause an accident by hitting a pedestrian or cyclist. In these cases, the driver and the company in ownership of the vehicle could be found negligent.

Critical Errors

Autonomous vehicles require delicate engineering and extensive coding to work together with mechanical parts. At some point along the line, these elements could be faulty or defective for one reason or another. While the driver has immense responsibility regardless of the automation, sometimes a vehicle is defective from the moment it comes off of the assembly line.

Suppose the driver of a self-driving car is involved in an accident, but their vehicle is defective. In that case, the car manufacturer and/or dealership could be held liable for the accident.

Have You Been in an Autonomous Vehicle Accident?

If you have been involved in an accident with a self-driving car, you may be entitled to compensation. With the help of our attorneys at Belushin Law Firm, P.C., you can pursue the most optimal result with the support of our team and our experience on your side.

Contact Belushin Law Firm, P.C. today for more information.