I was fortunate enough to attend law school at The University of South Carolina in Columbia and learn all about these unique laws from one of the nation’s brightest minds, Bryant Walker-Smith. Walker-Smith is a professor of both engineering and law and drafted the leading model law for self-driving vehicles. In fact, he taught some of the first legal courses dedicated to automated driving. So, long before the days of seeing a Tesla driving down Devine Street, the University of South Carolina in Columbia was lucky enough to have a brilliant scholar evaluating these issues.
Early on in my courses with Walker-Smith, one of the most valuable things I learned is that over 80% of people on the road consider themselves above-average drivers. I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t add up. Also, an estimated 81% of accidents happen due to driver error. Those two statistics don’t seem coincidental to me.
While taking Walker-Smith’s products liability course, I began to question whether self-driving cars are any scarier than human-driven cars. I don’t yet have the answer to that – mainly because there’s so much we still don’t know. However, we know that, legally, the more things change, they’re also staying the same. The fundamental law still applies: whether it’s the car’s fault or the driver’s fault, if the negligence of someone else injures you, you have the right to be made whole for any injuries you sustain or damages you incur.
If you or someone you know was involved in an accident with a self-driving car, you must call an experienced injury lawyer here at the Columbia, SC Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, PC, for help. There are many different kinds of vehicles that we might label as “self-driving,” so it’s important to determine right away which level of self-driving car you are dealing with. The Society of Automotive Engineers defines five levels of driverless automation:
- Level 0 – No automation. The human driver is in control of 100% of the driving.
- Level 1 – Driver assistance. A vehicle can assist the driver with steering, braking, and accelerating.
- Level 2 – Partial automation. The vehicle can control both steering and speed, but only in some circumstances. The human driver must, at all times, monitor the driving environment and perform other driving tasks.
- Level 3 – Conditional automation. A vehicle can perform all driving tasks under certain circumstances. Still, the human driver must be available and able to take back control of the car at the request of the automated system.
- Level 4 – High automation. The human driver is not required to pay attention. The automated vehicle can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment in many circumstances.
- Level 5 – Full automation. The driverless vehicle is in control of 100% of the driving.
Figuring out which type of vehicle you have encountered in a collision is essential, as many people often raise the defense of mechanical error. In these situations, an experienced South Carolina Trial Lawyer can help you take the necessary steps to protect and collect evidence regarding any improper maintenance of the vehicle or other circumstances which may have contributed to your collision.