Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

By December 3, 2020 December 16th, 2020 No Comments
Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident? | Ponton Law

According to the NHTSA, car accidents were responsible for a total of 35,000 fatalities in 2015. A good number of these deaths were caused by human error and could have been avoided. In an attempt to remove human error from the road, technology companies and automakers are in the process of developing self-driving cars.

Recently, a self-driving car caused an accident in Tempe, Arizona, during a test drive. This incident and others like it raise the question, who is to blame in a self-driving car accident? And how can a car accident attorney help you?

 Automation Levels in Self-Driving Cars

The NHTSA, in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Engineers, has developed an automation scale for self-driving cars. According to the scale, there are six possible levels of automation. The lower the automation in a self-driving car, the more liable a driver will be for an accident.

The levels are:

  • Level 0 – Also called ‘No Automation’ and only includes basic features.
  • Level 1 –  Also called ‘Driver Assistance,’ and is present in most vehicles and includes lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. 
  • Level 2 – Also called ‘Partial Automation.’ It is active when the driver’s hands are on the wheel and controls speed and steering.
  • Level 3 – Otherwise called ‘Conditional Automation.’ A vehicle with this level can drive itself under predetermined conditions and with the driver behind the wheel.
  • Level 4 – Also called ‘High Automation.’ Vehicles with this level can drive themselves without the need of a human driver but are restricted to known environments, conditions, and uses.
  • Level 5 – A vehicle with ‘Full Automation’ or level 5 is truly self-driving. It can drive through any road condition without human condition. However, this technology doesn’t exist yet.

 Liability in Self-Driving Accidents

The everyday car accident involves two vehicles and parties. The negligent party is usually found liable for the other person’s losses and made to provide compensation. Since a self-driving car is technically a vehicle driving itself, it often raises questions of liability.

In a self-driving car accident, liability could rest on one of the following parties:


Despite automation, human error is still a major cause of accidents. The first place an accident victim should look is to the driver. If a human operator could have but failed to prevent an accident, they can be held liable for the crash.

 Car Manufacturer

Sometimes, the automation works as designed, and the driver is careful. If an accident still happens, the fault might rest on the car’s manufacturer. This is the case where the crash was caused by a vehicle malfunction.

Technology Designer

Automation is a recent development in the technological sector. If the automation technology fails to perform as expected and causes an accident, its designer could be liable.

Talk to an Atlanta, GA Slip and Fall Attorney

It is understandable that people would want to remove human error from the roads. After all, they are responsible for the majority of car accidents. However, self-driving cars can also raise liability concerns, especially in fatal accidents.

At Ponton Law, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of personal injury victims. We apply our experience and resources to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you were injured in a self-driving car accident, contact us today at 404-860-2454 to talk to an experienced car accident attorney.