As the saying goes, the only constant is change. This is especially true when it comes to technology. One technology that has been making headlines in recent years is Tesla's Full Self-Driving (FSD) software. According to a recent article by Ars Technica, a car accident involving eight vehicles in California on Thanksgiving Day was reportedly caused by a Tesla vehicle using FSD. The driver of the Tesla, who was using the FSD software at the time of the accident, stated that the car "malfunctioned".
The incident has raised concerns about the safety of FSD software and the potential legal implications for personal injury attorneys. As more and more vehicles equipped with FSD hit the roads, the likelihood of accidents involving this technology will increase. Personal injury attorneys will need to be prepared to navigate the legal complexities surrounding these types of accidents, including determining fault and liability.
One major issue that personal injury attorneys may face is determining who is at fault in accidents involving FSD-equipped vehicles. In traditional car accidents, fault is typically assigned to the driver. However, in accidents involving FSD, fault may be more difficult to assign as the technology is designed to take over certain driving functions. This could potentially shift liability from the driver to the car manufacturer or even the software developer.
Another issue that personal injury attorneys may encounter is the collection and preservation of evidence in FSD-related accidents. Accidents involving FSD-equipped vehicles will likely generate a significant amount of data, including information from sensors, cameras, and telemetry systems. Attorneys will need to understand how to access and analyze this data to build a strong case.
Additionally, personal injury attorneys may also need to be prepared to deal with the insurance implications of FSD-related accidents. Insurance companies love to reduce their exposure and that often takes the form of coverage carve outs and exclusions. Insurance companies may be hesitant to cover accidents involving FSD, as the technology is still relatively new and untested. This could lead to disputes over coverage and potentially result in higher costs for accident victims.
The increasing use of FSD software in vehicles has the potential to significantly impact personal injury cases. Seems natural to assume that cars equipped with technology that can detect obstacles and can adjust vehicle speed should lead to less human error and less car crashes. Current data suggests just the opposite, that self-driving vehicles are involved in more than 2x the number of accidents over the same number of miles driven. Anyone who has shouted at Siri or Alexa in the last decade knows that AI systems require a lot of data, a lot of training, and will make a lot of failed attempts along their path to perfection.
What will the next year and next decade look like on our roads? How will liability evolve? What will insurance policies cover and exclude? Crashes may be inevitable but how will they evolve?