In recent years, the concept of self-driving cars has gained increasing popularity. Autonomous vehicles (AV), commonly referred to as “self-driving cars,” are equipped with cameras, sensors, and other technology designed to detect their environment and navigate without human input or intervention. Although this new technology brings many advantages, it raises an important question: Who is at fault in a self-driving car accident?

Tennessee State Laws for Autonomous Vehicle Accident Liability

In Tennessee, if you have been injured in a car accident involving a self-driving or autonomous vehicle, you could file a few different types of claims. Which type of claim you file depends on the details surrounding your accident.

Types of Self-Driving Vehicle Accident Claims in Tennessee

  • Claim Against the Human Driver: A common claim against the other human driver for general negligence.
  • Claim Against the Car Manufacturer: A “product liability” claim against the manufacturer or component supplier of the autonomous vehicle. This would claim something was defective about the vehicle, and that the defect caused the accident.
  • Claim Against a Repair Shop: If the self-driving vehicle was recently repaired improperly, the repair facility could be found liable for negligence.
  • Claim Against a Construction Company: If the accident was caused by confusing signage in a construction area, you could have a valid claim against the construction company.

Federal Laws for Self-Driving Vehicle Accident Liability

Since 2012, the federal government introduced optional guidelines that provide states with the authority to establish legislative structures concerning autonomous vehicles (AVs). These frameworks can offer incentives for autonomous driving endeavors, taking into account each state’s risk tolerance. As a result of this state-centric approach, a total of 40 states (along with Washington, DC) have implemented diverse sets of AV regulations. These laws permit AV testing on private roads, complete autonomous operation on public roads, and/or the provision of on-demand transportation services.

That being said, there are not currently any substantial federal laws for determining liability in automated vehicle accidents. This state-focused approach can establish a framework for federal legislation in the future. Until then, liability laws surrounding self-driving vehicles will remain largely determined at the state level.

Determining Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident

The Insurance Company’s Role in Self-Driving Accidents

Another key consideration when determining who is at fault in a self-driving car accident is whether or not the driver was in control of the vehicle at the time of the collision. In some instances, a human driver may be found to be partially or wholly responsible for an accident involving a self-driving car. If the driver was distracted by their phone or failed to respond appropriately to warnings from the car’s sensors, they may be liable even if their hands weren’t on the steering wheel.

Regardless of who is determined to be at fault in a self-driving car accident, insurers are likely to look closely at both cars involved before deciding liability. Insurance companies will likely consider whether or not the car was in autonomous mode and any other factors that contributed to the accident such as weather, road conditions, or mechanical problems.

Ultimately, determining who is at fault in a self-driving car accident can be complicated and often requires careful consideration of multiple factors. As this technology continues to evolve and become more widespread, there will likely be further developments in terms of laws and regulations addressing this issue. In the meantime, self-driving car drivers in Tennessee must stay informed about state-specific laws and take steps to ensure the safety of themselves and other motorists on the road.