Each year, new technologies emerge in automobiles that are aimed at making drivers safer and preventing car and truck accidents. For example, cars may come with new high-tech safety features, such as forward collision or blind spot warnings, or automatic emergency braking. One very popular new feature is autopilot technology, which the car manufacturer Tesla is famous for developing. The autopilot feature allows the vehicle to steer, merge, accelerate, and brake automatically. However, drivers are still supposed to be actively supervising their vehicles while in self-driving mode, and they may be held liable through a car accident lawsuit if they are not.
A recent Indiana accident highlights the potentially large role that autopilot can play in civil lawsuits brought against negligent drivers. According to a local news report covering the accident, a Tesla car was traveling along I-70 on a Sunday morning when the driver failed to see a parked firetruck. The Tesla crashed into the rear of the firetruck, which was parked with its emergency lights activated, responding to another crash along the highway. The driver of the Tesla and his wife were seriously injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. The wife was tragically later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The driver of the Tesla told investigators that he regularly uses his vehicle’s autopilot mode but cannot remember whether or not he had it activated at the time of the accident. Investigators are working to find out whether autopilot was activated because that fact can change the liability analysis in this case.