June 01, 2018 Feature

Legal Challenges to Product Liability Lawsuits Involving Automated Vehicles

By Theresa Wardon

In its recently released Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that “our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting and important innovations in transportation history—the development of Automated Driving Systems (ADSs), commonly referred to as automated or self-driving vehicles.” This new technology is “full of promise,” noted NHTSA, because it will “help drivers avoid crashes” and bring in a “future where highway fatalities and injuries are significantly reduced.” NHTSA estimates that 94 percent of all fatal crashes result from human error. Automated cars eliminate human error, and automated features that many of us already use—such as lane correction, traction control, and automatic parking—help reduce human error. But where an accident does occur, and an injured person decides to sue, these innovations raise new and complicated legal issues that may require changes to established product liability doctrines.

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