Logan’s Run, the hit 70’s TV show, warned of days like this. But it appears that nothing will stop the wave of technology that places the citizen under control of an Orwellian, government monitored computer data-base. We already know that our texts, and emails are being monitored and stored by the NSA, in violation of the plain language 4th Amendment. We also know that many politicians and judges they appoint, actually think that our unalienable rights are mere privileges. But many tort and consumer attorneys still look to more government regulation and control over the lives of everyday citizens as a positive thing.
Well, just as Obamacare will eviscerate what is left of the collateral source rule, and reduce economic damages under the Nishihama, Hanif and Howell line of cases in California, the driverless car could very well bankrupt what is left of the personal injury plaintiff’s bar. However, there are always winners and losers. Products liability attorneys may still be able to thrive in the car accident field, by pursuing products liability lawsuits against Google and their technology companies when, or if these cars go haywire, maim and kill.
The Google cars not requiring a driver to operate the vehicle may change the car accident rate on the nation’s highways and suburban streets forever. The Google non-driver car could change the way people look at commuting and travel, much the same as the company’s search engine changed Internet searches. Engineers have focused on building a car that is self driving that will use sensors, computer data and satellites, with Google claiming the vehicle will reduce the amount of car accidents. The company known for its Internet search engine believes there will be a reduction in car mishaps due to technology intervention, rather than vehicles relying on human drivers who may become distracted, drive while fatigued or drive under the influence.
Google Says There Will Be Less Accidents
and Diminished Congestion
The computer data and sensors the cars will use can see 360 degrees at all times, which is something that human driver’s are not able to do when operating a motor vehicle. Blind spots, weather conditions, limited vision all are eliminated with these driverless vehicles. Google alleges that in testing the unmanned vehicles over thousands of miles, the only accidents occurring have been due to other drivers. The company believes the use of this type of vehicle by drivers in the future may reduce traffic congestion as well, since the vehicles will be able to drive closer to the one in front.
The other way Google feels will reduce traffic congestion possibly is by virtually linking the vehicles together with them being connected by a unified computer network, similar to a train. Google cars are not available to consumers and won’t be for some time. The company wants the autonomous vehicles to be tested for one million miles prior to putting them on the market. Google vehicle technology will be paired with an automaker in manufacturing the automobiles.
Auto manufacturers have been using technology to make vehicles safer and reduce some human error and continue to improve safety in automobiles, especially to reduce human error. The manufacturers include Ford Motor Vehicles, which has been installing lane keeping technology in its vehicles to alert the driver if an auto has veered out of its lane by causing the steering wheel to vibrate. If the driver does not correct leaving the lane the car will auto correct. The lane feature can help in avoiding accidents caused by driver distraction or a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel.
At Fault Liability with Driverless Cars
While testing continues on the vehicles that operate on their own without the need for a driver, also known as robot cars, they will be sharing the road with autos operated by a driver. This poses the question about accidents and at-fault liability. The states of California and Nevada are both proposing or passing legislation that will place requirements on the testing on roadways of these latest technology vehicles. Colorado is expected to follow in proposed legislation. Even though it may be some time before this future generation of automobiles is available to consumers rules and regulations for manufacturing specifications and testing need to be in place, as well as roadway use.
The proposal of legislation prior to the cars being on the market for consumers is an important factor, since liability could become an issue not only in crash mishaps, but also in defective products. The Google car is a vehicle might reduce traffic accidents since it does not require a diver behind the wheel, but is dependent on software and other technology that may pose a hazard if defective making it essential to have laws involving liability for this type of vehicle. When this fails, and it will, there will be casualties.
The Future of Car Accident Claims from a Lawyer’s Perspective
Already, we are seeing the Google will probably be able to carve out exceptions for itself from lawmakers it donates money to on both sides of the aisle in terms of liability for lawsuits. So the concern among the plaintiff’s bar, is that the same legal standards must apply to Google cars, as is for any other technology. The real issue here is if Google is able to make technology part of a government program, potentially shielding the internet powerhouse with sovereign immunity. We have seen similar things happen when the state takes over a train or transit system.
When the government designs something under part of an approved plan, it can also try and assert immunity. This could throw a wrench in any potential suit as far as the timing goes, among other problems. Presently, under the law, if a Google car causes a wreck, a consumer can simply bring a products claim, and not have to worry about all these potential defenses. But just think of the partnership between Big Brother and Google that could be. We already know that California is issuing licenses for these cars.
Check Out this Video of a Driverless Car Crash
As more and more businesses flee California to business friendly states, and more and more driverless cars take the roads, it is highly likely there will be a dip in car accidents. This will certainly devastate the car accident attorney’s bar. But as seen above, this is clearly not a technology that is ready for prime time. If it is rushed to market, it could be the next Pinto case.
The choices are clear, find a chink in the technology and sue now while you can, or plan on your practice taking a big hit. If this pattern continues, it is only a matter of time before motorcycles are either outlawed or made driverless in the interests of controlling government run healthcare costs, just as kitchen knives and glass beer mugs are being slated for retirement in the UK. At some point, the crystal ball is showing a stark future for personal injury attorneys. Soon we will all live in a proverbial padded room.