The new technology that helps cars drive with minimal input from drivers isn’t as safe as it should be. While driver-assist software and hardware may be better than having someone who is intoxicated drive a car, new data confirms that driver-assist technology still has a long way to go until it can be considered safe. Our Vancouver, WA car accident lawyers can file negligence and product liability claims against car manufacturers when their car parts fail to work properly, so if driver-assist tech caused your injuries, we can help.
A June 2022 story in the New York Times cited new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that examined 10 months of crashes (some fatal) involving cars with automated components. The NHTSA found that 392 accidents in the US in the last 10 months involved cars using advanced driver-assistance technologies. The 10 months covered July 1, 2021, through May 15, 2022. Six of the accidents were fatal. Five of the accidents caused serious injuries. Two hundred and seventy-three of the crashes (and five of the deaths) involved Tesla’s Autopilot, its Full Self Driving mode, and its associated component features. The study was mandated by the NHTSA.
Car and truck manufacturers are designing and selling cars with auto-assist features that help drivers remove their hands from the steering while (under some conditions) and help drivers parallel park. The NHTSA order came in response to complaints that the federal agency wasn’t being strong with manufacturers. Matthew Wansley, a Cardozo School of Law professor who studies new auto technologies, said. “Until last year, NHTSA’s response to autonomous vehicles and driver assistance has been, frankly, passive…. This is the first time the federal government has directly collected crash data on these technologies.”
An NHTSA administrator said that the agency will continue to collect new data to help determine any trends that need to be addressed – and new regulations or rules that should be made. He added that while these new technologies can help improve safety, the agency needs to “understand how these vehicles are performing in real-world situations.” The administrator added that much more data analysis needs to be done to properly consider factors such as how many cars with the technology are on the road – from each manufacturer – and other issues.
What are advanced-driver assistance systems?
Advanced-driver assist systems (ADAS technology) enables a car to steer, brake, and accelerate without input from the driver – though the driver should stay actively focused on traffic and be ready to seize control of the vehicle at any time. Safety professionals have many concerns about ADAS technology starting with the fear the technology may lull drivers into a false sense of comfort and security. If an emergency arises and the technology doesn’t work, drivers may not be ready to take control promptly.
What manufacturers are involved in advanced driver assistance system technology?
Most cars with ADAS systems are manufactured by Tesla. Tesla has nearly 830,000 cars in the US that have its Autopilot technology or Tesla’s other driver-assistance technology. This dominance in the US market indicates why nearly 70 percent of the reported crashes in the study involved Tesla vehicles. The NHTSA report showed that there were 90 accidents involving Hondas and 10 involving Subarus. There were a few accidents each for Ford, GM, Toyota, Volkswagen, Porsche, and BMW.
Compared to Tesla, not many of the models (with full ADAS technology) of the other manufacturers have been sold – though these manufacturers have sold millions of cars with some of the key components of an ADAS system, including lane-keeping technology ,adaptive cruise control, and automatic braking.
The NHTSA study examined cars that had technology “Designed to operate with little or no intervention from the driver, and separate data on systems that can simultaneously steer and control the car’s speed but require constant attention from the driver.”
Many of the accidents that involved automated vehicles were minor (bumpers and fenders) because the vehicles were being operated at low speeds.
Most of the ADAS accidents in the NHTSA study involved cars being driven in the San Francisco Bay Area because that’s where “companies like Waymo, Argo AI, and Cruise are testing and refining the technology.” Waymo is operated by Google. Cruise is a division of General Motors. Both companies offer driverless taxi rides.
How do you hold manufacturers liable for defective software and hardware?
At Philbrook Law Office, our car accident lawyers work with experts in the new forms of driver-assistive technologies. If you are injured or a loved one is killed by a car, truck, or any vehicle with driver-assistive technology, we work with our experts, agencies such as NHTSA, and others to show that the:
- Technology was defective at the time of the accident
- The defective technology caused the accident
- The accident caused your injuries or the death of your close relative
In many cases, proving the above conditions is all that is needed to prove your claim. We may also show that the manufacturers should be liable if they violated the relevant federal and state laws, failed to properly test their products safely, breached any warranties, or failed to make their cars according to approved industry standards.
Some vehicles, such as Tesla’s “beta test of Full Self Driving — a version of Autopilot designed for use on city streets” were recalled after concerns were raised that the company announced a software update that might “cause crashes because of unexpected activation of the cars’ emergency braking system.” Recalls are another way our lawyers use to help show manufacturers made cars that were defective.
As more cars have advanced technology, there will likely be more accidents that are fatal or that cause life-changing injuries. Philbrook Law Office has the experience, skills, and resources to help accident victims obtain justice. We have an impressive record of settlements and verdicts in car accident and product liability claims. If you’ve been injured in any type of car accident, call us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA offices.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.