I saw an interesting tweet from Elon Musk the other day,
It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 who died in the US auto accidents alone get almost no coverage.
On the one hand, I understand his point. An accident involving a broken ankle isn’t too much to get excited about. On the other hand, the advent of the self-driving vehicle technology is still relatively new and people are still examining the safety and other issues associated with the new technology. As mentioned in the Washington Post article, another Tesla accident in March is still under investigation where the driver was killed so it is an issue that Musk can’t expect to go away soon. And even in this most recent accident the Tesla apparently did not brake prior to impact.
Undoubtedly there are a number of benefits to the self-driving cars and trucks. Clearly, the auto industry is headed in that direction. But right now, it appears as though a great number of people believe the lack of human intuition to detect, analyze and adapt to situations is a detriment to its implementation. Musk would obviously disagree, as his tweet implies, that human intuition failed in the circumstances resulting in the death of more than 40,000 people annually so are those concerns valid?
There may be arguments on both sides regarding the benefits of the new technology but there is little argument that personal injury / car accident cases will definitely change in the future. To examine fault, a lawyer will still need to consider the fault of the car / truck owner, the actual driver in auto pilot cases, or perhaps the developer of faulty software or sensors. There are many unknowns at this point so determining negligence in these cases is sure to evolve over time and it makes speculation a little difficult. But what is certain, lawyers will need to grasp these technologies in order to handle these cases effectively.