Driverless Cars: What Do You Need to Know?

Self-driving auto technology is growing, and Dallas may get a piece of the automated technology pie depending on the outcome of a project undertaken by Uber that launches in November. The Dallas Morning News reported earlier this month that the ride-sharing company Uber will map the city of Dallas this fall gathering data in downtown Dallas to support its development of self-driving cars. Uber has completed similar data-gathering in Toronto and San Francisco, and company officials acknowledged that Uber would consider launching self-driving cars in downtown Dallas, the News reported. After the death of a pedestrian, Uber had previously halted its testing of self-driving cars in Arizona. Now they are pressing forward.

So what do Dallas drivers need to know about self-driving cars?

First off, a little background. Texas in 2017 cleared the way for self-driving technology when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that allows testing on Texas roads. Testing had already been occurring in Texas but the companies performing the research and development were operating in a gray area since nothing in Texas transportation code explicitly prohibited the practice. The 2017 law, S.B. 2205, made clear that technology companies are welcome to test self-driving cars in Texas, according to a Texas Tribune report. In Texas, automated vehicles are required to comply with all traffic laws, must be insured and must have video-monitoring technology. The same bill also made manufacturers responsible for any injuries or wrecks as long as the onboard technology had not been modified, the Tribune reported.

Dallas drivers can rest easy (or not) for now because the data mapping cars will be operated manually by human operators. According to an Uber blog post authored by the company’s Head of Advanced Technologies Group, the process allows Uber to:

  • “Develop high-definition maps, the foundational information layer for our self-driving system.
  • “Capture everyday scenarios that we can then recreate in simulation and on our test track.
  • “Further refine our expansion methodology, which involves identifying key characteristics within an operational domain in a new city, and then running that data through our autonomy system in simulation and on our test track to verify that our autonomy system, if it were on a road, would perform as intended.”

Dallas drivers should also know that the mapping/data gathering phase doesn’t necessarily mean the technology company will roll out its automated technology in Dallas.

It’s not entirely surprising that Uber chose Dallas as a city to map for potential automation. Uber in August announced it would move 3,000 jobs to its new Deep Ellum location. Dallas is also slated to be one of the first cities where Uber Air’s flying taxis will launch in 2023, according to Mashable and other news sites.

The 2017 state law signed by Gov. Abbot made liability clearer for those who use automated technology. State law holds manufacturers – not passenger users – responsible for wrecks and traffic violations. Since the majority of crashes occur because of someone’s negligence – whether that someone is a human operator in the car or a remote person or system – it makes sense for manufacturers to bear responsibility for crashes and injuries caused by their technology. Note that it’s still necessary to show that a manufacturer was negligent in some way in the event of a crash-related injury, and this will certainly add a layer of complexity to related personal injury cases.

No matter the outcome of Uber’s data gathering project, the future of personal injury law related to crashes that involve automated vehicle technology will be complicated. While automated vehicles may help create safer driving outcomes, there will still be flaws and injuries will result. The gradual move to automation may ramp up products liability cases.

Got a question about a personal injury related to a Dallas, Fort Worth, Rockwall or Collin County car crash? Give us a call to discuss your case.

Contact Chad

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