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Autonomous vehicles: Products liability on wheels

Tourists and commuters use various rideshare apps to travel to other destinations. Newly implemented vehicle technology launched in cities like Baton Rouge paves the way for products that require new legislation. With new legislation comes new safety definitions.

You should be safe while using your commercial product, especially when you rely on it to drive you.

If an autonomous vehicle causes an accident that results in injury or death of the passenger or a pedestrian, who, or what, is responsible?

Understanding products liability

A case of products liability occurs when a product injures or harms you. In court, malfunctions of products apply to either manufacturing defects or design defects.

While design defects cite a problem with the overall product model, manufacturing defects usually describe cases where the product was put together incorrectly. A failure to warn products liability case arises when consumers are not made fully aware of a product's’ risks in either marketing or safety alerts.

A machine’s responsibility

Reported cases of dangerous self-driving cars pepper the industry as the vehicles first launch. Because autonomous vehicles do not hold the ability to make significant traffic decisions, consumers of the cars may prove to be at extreme risk. By entering the vehicle, you may be subjected to products liability cases against the car maker, car manufacturer or car company.

For the first time, new laws transfer the power of the human driver to a vehicle computer. However, multiple states implemented safety drivers in their testing vehicles, which implies that humans make final decisions in controlling the vehicle.

In March, an autonomous Uber hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona while a safety driver sat in the driver’s seat. Unbeknownst to both the self-driving vehicle and the emergency driver, a pedestrian crossed in front of the vehicle while it traveled at 40 mph. The driver did not engage the emergency break, nor did the vehicle break on its own.

A person may make a decision that conflicts with tested vehicle decisions, resulting in confusion as to whom or what is responsible if a tragic accident occurs.

Avoiding harm

In 2016, Louisiana enacted legislation to define autonomous technology. The description reads that autonomous vehicles should “include the ability to automatically bring the motor vehicle into a minimal-risk condition in the event of a critical vehicle or system failure.”

The use of autonomous vehicles in cities across the United States causes concern for safety for all parties. The importance in understanding the risks of a product before use is essential, but all products should perform correctly and safely.

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