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

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Self-driving cars are a thing of the future, right? Yes, and no. Although fully automated cars aren’t available to the public yet, cars with some degree of automation are. Often advertised as “driverless,” these vehicles still need an attentive driver who is ready to step in and take control.

One of the advertised benefits of self-driving cars is that they are safer, but they still get into accidents. According to the National Law Review, the percentage of self-driving car accidents is currently higher than that of regular vehicles.

Driverless Cars Aren’t Truly Driverless – Yet


A major issue with today’s self-driving cars is that some drivers don’t understand they still have to be involved in operating them. Marketing verbiage sometimes misrepresents the capabilities of these vehicles.

Although manufacturers publish warnings and details, not all drivers read them. Many crashes occur because drivers incorrectly assume that their cars don’t require their full attention.

6 Levels of Autonomy


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assigned six levels of autonomy to self-driving cars. Today, many cars feature some lower-level autonomous functions, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. Highway pilot systems combine automatic speed adjustments with steering. Consumers can expect many more advanced functions in the near future.

Levels Requiring Constant Driver Monitoring

Level 0 – No Automation

The driver completely operates the vehicle. Self-driving technology provides minimal momentary assistance, such as collision warnings, emergency braking, and lane-keeping guidance.

Level 1 – Driver Assistance

This level includes systems that provide continuous steering or speed control features, but the driver must be ready to assume control of the vehicle.

Level 2 – Partially Automated Driving

The features from level one combine to create advanced driving assistance. The system can control speed and steering simultaneously. A few automakers already offer this technology.

Levels With Minimal Driver Involvement

Consumers in the U.S. can’t purchase vehicles with this technology yet, although some automakers hope to release some later in 2022.

Level 3 – Conditional Automation

Drivers must remain attentive, but the self-driving system handles car operations when activated. The system may turn over control to the driver if needed.

Level 4 – High Automation

Level four vehicles don’t require human operators in some cases. They can perform all driving functions, but only in limited areas.

Fully Automated Self-Driving Car

U.S. consumers may see these available within the next few years.

Level 5 – Full Automation

Cars with this highest level of automation can drive themselves in any conditions, anywhere. Occupants are strictly passengers.

On March 10, 2022, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards experienced a change. Vehicle manufacturers are aggressively developing automated driving technologies, and cars of the future won’t need steering wheels or brake pedals. The update to these regulations allows for these and other new features while specifying manufacturing safety regulations to protect passengers.

Determining Fault in Self-Driving Car Accidents


Drivers must constantly monitor vehicles with the levels of self-driving technology available to consumers today. Because of this, multiple parties are potentially liable in accidents involving self-driving cars with human operators.


Depending on the level of automation, drivers must still either operate or constantly monitor vehicle operation. If a situation calls for it, the driver should immediately take control of the car to prevent a crash. Because of this, drivers can be responsible and liable for collisions if they fail to heed automated warnings or take over steering or speed control if necessary.

Software or Technology Company

Self-driving cars use advanced software and technologies to operate. Unfortunately, there are still kinks in some of these systems that can cause accidents. If self-driving systems fail to perform within expected parameters and cause a crash, the companies that produce the systems may be liable.


Errors made by automakers when assembling vehicles may produce unsafe and unreliable performance. Auto manufacturers might be responsible for accidents if the car is defective.

Commercial Self-Driving Cars


Some states already allow self-driving cars without a human occupant to operate on their roads. If these vehicles cause a collision, several parties might be liable:

  • The automaker
  • Sensor manufacturers
  • Software and technology companies
  • The company that owns the car
  • Hackers who infiltrate the car’s systems

Cybersecurity is a genuine concern with automated driving technology. Like any type of digital equipment connected to a network, self-driving car systems are vulnerable to hacking.

Another safety concern with current self-driving technology is that the systems often have trouble distinguishing between objects, animals, and people. Cars using this technology have crashed into the side of tractor-trailers at full speed because the systems couldn’t tell the difference between the truck and the sky. Developers are working diligently to improve the artificial intelligence components to prevent this type of collision in the future.

Sorting through available evidence in unoccupied automated vehicle accidents to determine liability is often challenging, especially since laws pertaining to them are still developing. Mike Morse Law Firm stays up to date with Michigan’s laws and is ready to assist you if you sustain injuries in any kind of car accident, including those involving self-driving cars.

Self-Driving Car Laws


With the new technology presented by self-driving cars, questions involving insurance requirements and liability arise. Each state can govern the legality of autonomous vehicles within its borders, the amount of liability insurance required, and the degree of permissible usage allowed. Several states already allow self-driving car testing and deployment, with and without human drivers.

As this technology becomes more prevalent, state legislatures will have to examine the intricacies of potential liability issues and create laws and regulations to address them. Manufacturers are collecting and reporting self-driving vehicle crash data in an effort to assist, and also to provide safer systems.

States govern how much auto insurance drivers must purchase and how damages are paid in the case of an accident. The advent of self-driving cars means that updated laws may change the amounts of insurance required and the rules for determining liability.

What You Should Do if You Are in an Accident


If you are involved in any kind of car crash, there are several things you should do immediately.

  • Try to assist other people.
  • Call the police to report the collision.
  • Accept or seek out medical attention.
  • Take photos and make videos using your phone to capture as many details as possible, including injuries, vehicle damage, the accident scene, witness statements, your statement, and any other evidence.
  • Contact an auto accident attorney.

Self-driving cars without a driver lack a driver’s account of how the accident occurred, although they do record data. Witness accounts may prove to be invaluable in these cases.

Mike Morse Law Firm Can Help


Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan, has represented injured accident victims since 1995. Although self-driving cars are relatively new, we are fully capable of successfully obtaining maximum compensation for damages if you sustain injuries in a crash involving a self-driving car.

We make a promise to every client: No Win, No Fees Guaranteed. Beginning with your free case evaluation, our services won’t cost you a penny until you receive compensation for your car accident claim.

We believe that every accident victim deserves competent legal representation, and we’d like the opportunity to help you. Call us 24/7 at (855) MIKE-WINS, email us, connect via live chat, or submit our quick contact form. Once we’ve received your completed contact form, we’ll be in touch within two hours.

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