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Posts Tagged ‘autonomous vehicles’

Federal Court Considers Jurisdiction Over Japanese Autonomous Auto Accident

Posted on: September 18th, 2020

By: Wes Jackson

On September 8, 2020, a federal court in California heard arguments as to whether it will exercise jurisdiction over a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla. While the case presents an interesting forum non conveniens issue, it is also a harbinger of the coming transformation of auto accident litigation: as more vehicles become autonomous, what were once run-of-the-mill negligence cases will become full-blown corporate products liability claims.

The accident at issue occurred on April 29, 2018, when the driver of a Tesla Model X operating in Autopilot mode fell asleep and crashed into some motorcycles, pedestrians, and a van parked along an expressway near Tokyo, Japan. A 44-year-old husband and father died in the accident. His survivors brought suit against Tesla in the Northern District of California, arguing that the manufacturer sold cars operating on substandard, untested autonomous technology.

The arguments on September 8, 2020 consisted of standard forum non conveniens fare—weighing the benefit of having direct access to Tesla employees with knowledge of the car’s technology in California against the benefit of having access to witnesses and physical evidence of the actual crash in Tokyo. But the case also foreshadows a major change in how auto accidents are litigated. If, as we expect, the multiple split-second decisions involved in driving a vehicle are outsourced from the individual driver to a manufacturer’s autonomous driving system, liability will gradually shift from the driver to the manufacturer.

One consequence of this shift might be that the driver’s insurer is no longer the deepest pocket in play in auto wreck cases, encouraging plaintiffs to turn their attention to products liability claims against the manufacturer. Such a shift could also bring about major changes in the automobile insurance industry itself. These changes are likely to unfold in the coming years, as autonomous vehicles become more prevalent.

If you have any questions about this post or transportation liability, please contact the author, attorney Wes Jackson, at [email protected].

Many Drivers Don’t Appreciate Limitations of Driver Assistance Technologies

Posted on: September 28th, 2018

By: Wes Jackson

Pump the breaks, George Jetson! While car technology is quickly advancing towards autonomous vehicles, we aren’t there yet. Even so, a recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests many drivers overestimate the abilities of new driver assistance technologies, which could lead to unsafe driving habits.

The study examined drivers’ attitudes toward and interactions with “advanced driver assistance systems,” or ADAS. Anyone who has recently purchased a new car is likely familiar with many of the latest ADAS technologies such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency breaking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

While the study found that most drivers trusted and used these ADAS features, it also revealed that most drivers do not appreciate their limitations. For example, only 21% of owners of vehicles with blind spot monitoring knew that such systems could not detect vehicles passing at a high rate of speed. Similarly, only a third of owners of vehicles with automatic breaking systems knew the systems relied on cameras and sensors that could be compromised by dirt or other debris.

What’s worse, some drivers with ADAS systems admitted to adopting unsafe driving habits in response to the new technologies. For instance, 29% of respondents to the study reported feeling comfortable engaging in other activities while using adaptive cruise control. Similarly, 30% of respondents admitted to relying exclusively on their blind spot monitoring system without checking their blind spots, and 25% of respondents admitted to backing up without looking over their shoulder when using a rear cross-traffic alert system.

These new ADAS technologies can certainly help motorists driver more safely. However, drivers should not succumb to the illusion that these new technologies made alert driving a thing of the past. Until we’re all flying around in autonomous space-age vehicles, be sure to keep your eyes on the road and always look twice before backing up or changing lanes.

The Transportation Law Team at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP is on the cutting edge of autonomous vehicle issues. If you have any questions about the AAA Foundation’s report or issues concerning autonomous vehicles, please contact Wes Jackson at [email protected].