Uber’s Driverless Truck Unit Is Under Government Investigation Following Unapproved Tests

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Who Is Liable When a Driverless Truck Injures Others?

Just as driverless cars are expected to revolutionize day-to-day errands and commutes, driverless trucks are expected to revolutionize the shipping and commercial trucking industries. However, the arrival of driverless trucking may have faced a setback, not from a driverless truck accident, but rather, when California regulators announced a site inspection of Uber’s autonomous trucking operations.

The inspection is tied to concerns that Uber may have broken California state law by testing driverless trucks on the state’s public roads without permission. The purpose of the inspection, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, is to allow the DMV and the California Highway Patrol to inspect the driverless trucks and to examine information related to how those trucks are tested.

Regulators became concerned about Uber’s activities when an internal document indicated that its driverless trucks were being operated on roads in the greater San Francisco area “on a daily basis.” However, the company had told state regulators in February 2017 that the trucks were not being driven on public roads by the onboard driverless software.

Now, state regulators are investigating Uber to determine whether the trucks are operating autonomously on state roads and, if not, in what situations the autonomous software is being tested and how it can be disengaged if an emergency occurs.

Who Is Liable When a Driverless Truck Injures Others?

When a truck accident occurs, the first place most injured people look for liability is to the truck driver. In many accidents, the driver’s negligence wholly or partly causes the accident. When a driverless truck causes injuries, however, who can be held liable?

Because driverless vehicle technology is still new, many questions about liability have yet to be answered by the courts. However, when a driverless vehicle causes an accident, it is important for injured parties and their attorneys to consider all potential sources of liability. These may include not only the company that produces the driverless software and systems, but also:

  • The trucking company. Currently, trucking companies have a duty to ensure that their trucks and equipment are in good working order. This duty likely extends to include the good working order of any autonomous vehicle technology.
  • The owner of the cargo. In some truck accidents, an overweight or improperly secured load leads to an accident even when the driver takes care to avoid one. In these instances, the company that owns or that loaded the cargo may be responsible for any injuries resulting from an improper load.
  • Other drivers. Each year in California, accidents occur that involve large trucks, but that were not caused by the truck itself. Instead, the negligence of another driver started a chain of events that led to an accident in which the truck was involved. Since driverless truck technology may be programmed to take defensive maneuvers similar to those human drivers use, it is also possible that such defensive maneuvers may cause accidents—and must be considered when determining where liability lies.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, healing from your injuries is a top priority. By working with an experienced California truck accident lawyer, you gain an ally who can help investigate your accident, negotiate with insurance companies, and prepare your case for compensation, so you can focus on getting well. Contact J&Y Law today for a free consultation.

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.