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Jason Stephens Quoted on Reuters.com About Liability for Self-Driving Systems

Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Jan 20, 2017 in Auto Accidents

picture of jason stephensFounding partner Jason Stephens was quoted in an article published last night on Reuters.com about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) decision not to order a recall of the Tesla Model S.

Stephens pointed out that the NHTSA decision does not mean automakers can avoid personal injury claims in situations where an autopilot system does not prevent a crash.

If Tesla or another carmaker knows that drivers misuse or are often confused by self-driving systems, "that in and of itself can be a safety-related defect," Stephens said.

The NHTSA has been investigating the Autopilot system in the Tesla Model S since last May, when a Model S was involved in a fatal crash in Florida. The driver was killed after the car crashed into a truck while the Autopilot was engaged.   

Federal regulators were unable to find any safety defects with the Autopilot system and concluded that the driver was primarily responsible for the crash.

The NHTSA report concluded that the truck the driver hit should have been visible at least seven seconds before impact. The driver should have taken action to prevent the crash, including braking or steering to avoid the truck.

Even when using a self-driving system, drivers have an obligation to maintain control of their vehicles, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

However, the NHTSA report also found that drivers could be confused about when they are in control of the car or when the Autopilot system is in control.

Carmakers must clearly communicate to drivers "about what the technology does and what it does not do," says Foxx. For instance, in the Model S crash, the system was unable to detect a truck trailer that crossed in front of the Tesla.

There is an ongoing investigation into the crash by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

If you have been injured in a self-driving car accident, contact our Fort Worth car accident lawyers for a free legal consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Call our attorneys today at (877) 920-9009.