A quarter of the way through 2017, the prospect of driverless cars appearing on the streets of Nashville and other towns and cities in Tennessee is becoming ever more a possibility. Only ten years ago, the thought that you could be using a driverless car yourself or be involved in an altercation or accident with one of them would probably seem like something out of a science fiction movie. But technology can move at breakneck speed at times. So, are driverless cars on the streets of Nashville going to make driving safer or less safe and what can you do if you are actually hit by a driverless car?

The first thing to realize is that despite the name, ‘driverless’ cars are unlikely to have no-one in them, at least for the immediate future. The concept is more around introducing technology which allows the car to more or less negotiate itself around the streets and highways, avoid accidents and slow down and stop when needed with minimum attention from a human driver, but with the owner still in the front seat.

Potential benefits of driverless cars

Driverless cars use a system of interconnected cameras and lasers controlled by a computer to navigate their way around. There are three particular benefits touted by advocates for driverless cars.

  • They are predicted to reduce the accident rate by eliminating incorrect or rash decisions which might be made by human drivers. For instance, they would not go too fast for the conditions, get drunk or take drugs, get too close to another vehicle in front, run a red light or a stop sign, get distracted by a cell phone or what was happening on the sidewalk, get tired, or act aggressively or competitively. If this was an accurate indication of their potential this would be enough to reduce the accident rate significantly, as these are the main reasons why there are vehicle accidents.
  • They may reduce congestion if it gets to the point where cars can drop their owner off at work and then pick them up again.
  • They could reduce stress and fatigue by releasing their owners from the need to concentrate so hard when driving. The driver then becomes a ‘passenger’ in a chauffeur driven car.

The intriguing question for personal injury attorneys is what happens when someone is hit by a driverless car. It is no longer complete speculation. The first case of a death caused by an accident involving a driverless car has already arisen. In Florida last year a Tesla Model S driverless car hit a semi-trailer and the driver died as a result of the accident. The family filed a wrongful death claim against Tesla alleging that the technology was not sufficient to prevent such an accident happening. Another driverless car smashed into the side of a bus in the same year, apparently because its computerized system could not differentiate sufficiently between the white side of the bus and the sky.

As with any other personal injury situation the success of any lawsuit filed against the owner of a driverless car must depend on proving who or what was at fault. If you were hit by a driverless car and were injured, for example, there are various possibilities, assuming of curse that you yourself were not to blame.

  1. The driver made the wrong decision. The driver in this case was in control of the car, despite the fact that it was a ‘driverless’ car.
  2. The car’s technology was at fault. In this case the manufacturer of the car might be blamed. Alternatively, it may be the manufacturer of one of the components in the car that was to blame, e.g. the manufacturer of the cameras, the lasers, the autopilot, the computer module, the software or something else related to the ‘driverless’ nature of the car.
  3. Another party altogether, independent of either the owner of the driverless car or the technology in the car, but something external such as the road condition, signage, design of the road, or the actions of another vehicle driver altogether.

Driverless cars are unlikely to be a temporary phenomenon and it is unlikely to be long before Nashville sees more driverless cars appearing on our roads. We will have to wait and see whether this will lead to more accidents or less. If you are hit by another vehicle, driverless or not and believe that the other vehicle or its driver was to blame, your best option is to contact an experienced car accident attorneys in Nashville such as the Keith Williams Law Firm as soon as possible. Our personal injury attorneys will fight to establish the truth about your accident and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our law firm at 615-313-3999.