Traffic light with a walking signal.

Self-Driving Cars and Pedestrian Injuries

In March 2018, one of Uber’s experimental self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. While this was the first fatal accident of its kind, many companies, including Uber, Tesla, and Google, are investing in self-driving car technology.

What Happened With the Uber Accident?

A report released recently from the National Transportation Safety Board found that pedestrian Elaine Ramos was pushing her bike across the street at night when the self-driving car struck her. The report describes how the car’s detection system detected her six seconds before it struck and killed her. Approximately one second before striking her, the car’s system determined that it should hit the brakes. However, according to the NTSB, Uber’s system was not set up to act on that decision as engineers wanted “to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.” Essentially, the report says, the system was designed such that it would not “overreact” to things that were not actually issues by braking suddenly, which could cause accidents.

Why Is This Important?

Companies like Google, GM, Uber, and Baidu are investing heavily to develop self-driving cars. This technology has the potential to significantly transform not only the auto industry, but also transportation and how cities operate. Self-driving technology could not only be used for private cars, it is also being tested for taxi services and buses. In short, it is very likely that self-driving vehicles of all sizes and for all purposes will be much more prevalent in the future. The safety and reliability of the systems which operate them, is incredibly important, not just to ensure the well-being of other drivers, but, as sadly demonstrated by the accident that killed Elaine Ramos, to ensure pedestrian safety as well.

How Are Pedestrians Protected by the Law?

Pedestrians always have the right of way in California. Drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to not injure others when operating a motor vehicle. If they fail to do so, the driver can be deemed negligent. Often, cases of pedestrian injury in California are caused by drivers who speed, disobey traffic signs or signals, or fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians can also be injured by drivers who fail to signal when turning, and by drivers who fail to exercise a heightened degree of care around schools, playgrounds, and in residential areas.

All of these are scenarios which driverless cars could become involved in as well. If the companies producing driverless car technology do not properly ensure the safety of their cars’ pedestrian detection systems, those companies could be held negligently responsible for resulting injuries or deaths to pedestrians.

What Should You Do if You Are Injured or if a Loved One is Killed by a Car?

If you are injured or a loved one is killed by a car, whether driven by a human or self-driving, it’s important you know what all of your options are. Understanding pedestrian injury claims can be complicated. However, it is important for you and your family to be in the best position possible to recover enough compensation in these situations. The personal injury attorneys at J&Y Law are experienced in bringing a variety of pedestrian injury claims. Contact J&Y Law today to learn more about your options.