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Tempe Uber Crash: How Does the Law Protect People Injured by Self-Driving Cars?

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In March, one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles was struck by another vehicle in Arizona. The company suspended its entire autonomous car program to investigate what went wrong. As is typical in car accidents involving self-driving vehicles, it was not the computer that was at fault. A human driver making a left turn failed to yield to the Uber, which flipped on its side after the two collided.

Self-driving vehicles force us to ask new questions about liability in injury cases. While no one was injured in the above-mentioned accident, it is inevitable that someday, someone will be, and we will need to be ready to help injury victims in these accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 90 people die and 6,400 are injured every day in car accidents. The overwhelming majority, 90 percent or higher, are due to human error. It is believed that as more cars come equipped with driver assist features and as companies like Google, Tesla and Uber get more autonomous vehicles on the road, this staggering accident rate will drop dramatically.


Autonomous vehicle liability is an evolving field of law. The individual facts of any case would be the primary factor in determining liability. For example: was the car that caused the crash defective in some way? Did the owner of the vehicle fail to maintain it properly? Or, perhaps, was someone responsible for hacking the vehicle from the outside, causing a crash? While we may not have all the laws yet that we need for governing self-driving cars, the legal framework to help victims of these accidents is there.

Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

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