Cars that are driven not by human beings, but by computers, are currently being developed by the world’s leading technological industries. Some say these cars will eventually replace all those driven by humans. Self-driving cars do not have the same controls in the car that automobiles have today, because they are operated solely by remote computers.

If a person is injured because of a mistake made by a self-driving car, complicated questions of liability arise. The law in this area is very new, so there are a number of different criteria for legality depending on which state the car is sold and driven in when injury occurs.

Are Self-Driving Cars Legal?

Seventeen states have debated self-driving car legislation, but only California, Florida, Washington D.C., and Nevada have adopted and enacted these laws. Recently, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would legally recognize self-driving cars as safe enough for roadways. It is expected this will facilitate testing and increased development of self-driving cars.

Legislation and proposed legislation around self-driving cars are propped up by the assumption that a human being will be operating the computer that directs the car. The car might not have a driver, but a person is sending the signals to the car that control its movements.

Because of this, manufacturers will have limited liability in some states. Florida and Washington D.C. shift the liability from the auto manufacturer to the tech company that creates and installs the computer that operates the car. Florida, Washington D.C. and Nevada anticipate cars without drivers eventually becoming more commonplace and have passed legislation defining the operator of the car to be the person remotely controlling the device. 

Other legal concerns about self-driving cars include questions of privacy and licensure. Nevada has created a special distinct kind of license necessary to be legally permitted to operate a self-driving car. Additionally, self-driving cars record GPS coordinates that the car uses to make its way from point A to point B. California state law rules this information is disclosable and is not privileged as private for the user.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been injured in or by a self-driving car, or think you are at danger of being injured by a self-driving car, consulting a personal injury lawyer can help you learn about your options for restitution and remedy. The law in this area is very new, and a lawyer can research the best options for your legal case or defense.