The Self-Driving Car is a technology for autonomous cars.  Typical robotic cars have electronic  equipment including a  laser that  allows the vehicle to generate a 3D map of its environment. The car then takes these generated maps and combines them with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself.

The system work by using a very high definition map of the area the vehicle is expected to use, including the traffic lights.  The system drives at the speed limit included in the maps and maintains a safe  distance from other vehicles using a system of sensors. The system allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel, similar to cruise control systems.


Nevada passed a law on June 29, 2011, permitting the operation of autonomous cars in Nevada.  The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for an autonomous car in May 2012.  In April 2012, Florida became the second state to allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads. California became the third state to legalize the use of self-driven cars for testing purposes as of September 2012.  Michigan signed legislation allowing the testing of automated or self-driving vehicles on Michigan’s roads in December 2013, that requires a human to be presentat all times. Other conuntries including; Germany, Netherlands and Spain have allowed testing robotic cars.   Finland is considering passing a law before 2015.  Four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars as of December 2013: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan.  A law proposed in Texas would establish criteria for allowing "autonomous motor vehicles".


In August 2011, a human-controlled driverless car was involved in a crash near Mountain View, CA. The car was being driven manually at the time of the accident. See the following link:

Another incident involved a driverless car being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. See the following link:  Apparently  neither of these incidents were the fault of the car but the fault of other humans operating the cars.

If you are involved in a car accident with an autonomous car, several important questions remain to be answered: Who is at fault?  Will you be bringing a lawsuit against a robot?  How do you sue a robotic driver? How do you take the deposition or a robotic driver?  Do you subpoena the robotic driver to court for trial? 

Normally the injured person files a claim against the at fault drivers insurance or file a lawsuit against the owner/driver  of the at fault vehicle. So far so good, you could still file a claim against the at fault vehicle owners insurance company. However insurance companies normally defend their insured driver, and obtain a statement from their insured as to whether they were at fault in the accident. 

Obviously insurance companies need to begin discussing how they will be affected by autonomous-vehicle technology. There are more questions than answers and before we find that our streets are teeming with robotic cars, we need to address these issues. Liability will still exist, however it may shift from the driver to either the manufacturer of the vehicle or the software developer, or the communications-interface infrastructure.  This will be more like  a products liability claim and less like a typical auto accident claim.

For more information or a free consultation on your legal issue contact The Law Offices of Charles D. Scott PLLC, your injury law and family law attorneys, at 727-300-4878.

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