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Could self-driving cars lead to products liability claims?

As West Virginia readers may have heard, a recent fatal accident has brought Tesla and its new autopilot function under scrutiny. A 40-year-old man was killed after the autopilot function failed to recognize a white truck against a bright sky, which ultimately resulted in a fatal collision. There is a debate whether automakers could be subjected to products liability claims if self-driving technology fails or if drivers bear the responsibility to react if they are in danger.

Tesla's autopilot technology allows for the car to automatically brake, change lanes and turn. Other automakers working to develop similar technology claim that drivers should not be expected to brake or react quickly in emergency situations. By marketing vehicles as self-driving, consumers could be lulled into a false sense of safety when, in fact, they must remain vigilant and cautious, even when this function is in use.

It is still in question whether Tesla is vulnerable to lawsuits as a result of this particular accident and the potential risk these vehicles pose to drivers. In the meantime, the company's autopilot feature is currently the subject of a federal investigation. It may be possible that the automaker could be considered negligent by not protecting the interests of consumers.

Products liability claims may be filed if a manufacturer endangers consumers with misleading marketing, dangerous products or unsafe technology. If a West Virginia reader believes that he or she is the victim of a dangerous product, it is wise to seek a case evaluation with an experienced lawyer. By seeking experienced legal counsel, a person can learn if they are entitled to financial compensation.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Tesla's 'autopilot mode' puts it at risk for liability in crashes", Paresh Dave, July 6, 2016

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