In a traditional car, it is taken for granted that as the driver of the vehicle, you are responsible for how it behaves on the road, assuming it is in full working order. Therefore, if you collide with another car when it could have reasonably been avoided in this situation, or if you drive well above the speed limit, then it would be quite clear that you are to blame, and therefore, liable.
However, if you are using the autopilot feature of a car brand such as Tesla and are involved in an accident as a result, the liability may be unclear. Last year in Phoenix, a Tesla Model X was involved in a collision with a motorcycle. Although the collision was minor, it sparked a wider debate about the unclear legalities relating to self-driving cars.
The differing levels of driving automation
When it comes to driving automation, there are different levels of control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recognize six different levels, with zero being fully controlled by humans, and five being fully machine controlled.
Liability is largely decided based on what the automation level rating was determined to be at the time of the incident. If the rating was a level three or lower, then it is likely that the driver will be held liable, since he or she has control and an obligation to be fully alert.
Self-driving liability is a rapidly changing and new part of personal injury law. Therefore, if you have been injured by a Tesla or similar car, it is a good idea to look into whether you might have a personal injury case.
Source: USA Today, “Who is liable if a self-driving car crashes? Tesla mishap raises issues,” accessed Jan. 24, 2018