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Who is Liable for a Driverless Car Accident in Texas?

Self-driving vehicles have gone from ideas in science fiction (and the Jetsons) to reality in many places around the country. Even though these vehicles have not made it to the mainstream for general use, self-driving vehicles have certainly been tested thoroughly over the last few years, including here in Texas. Here, we want to discuss who is liable for a driverless car accident in Texas, as well as whether or not there is any pending legislation about the future of self-driving vehicles.

What Are Self-Driving Vehicles?

Self-driving vehicles are no longer something out of a science fiction movie. They are a reality, even if they are not mainstream on our roadways yet. Various companies have been testing self-driving vehicles for years in multiple states around the country, at varying levels of success.

In fact, officials at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport are testing a program where autonomous vehicles park themselves after the vehicle owner pulls up to the terminal. Paul Puopolo, executive vice president of innovation at the airport, says that autonomous vehicles are here to stay and that “we need to start thinking about how we can work with them, manage them and also leverage them for our own internal use.”

Self-Driving Vehicles Not Mainstream Yet in Texas

Self-driving vehicles, ones that completely drive themselves without input from a driver, are not on Texas roadways yet. In fact, they are not anywhere, at least not for everyday consumers. Even though there are vehicles with high levels of automation, including Tesla vehicles that can drive themselves down the highway, a driver is still required to be sitting in the driver’s seat and able to take over at any time.

Any self-driving vehicle currently being tested on the roadway is operated by a company that has set up the test. If an accident involving these vehicles occurs, then the company responsible for the testing will also be held liable for any injuries or property damage that occur.

However, many vehicles in Texas have high levels of automation, even if a driver is still in the driver’s seat. This can include adaptive steering or cruise control, advanced braking systems, and even vehicles that park or unpark themselves. If an accident occurs while a vehicle is engaged in an autonomous activity, then the vehicle’s owner will be held responsible for any injuries or property damage that occur. Every driver in Texas is required to carry a minimum amount of insurance on their vehicle. If the driver is found to be at fault, their insurance carrier will have to pay out the claim.

The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles

It is very likely that self-driving vehicles will become a normal thing on the roadways in the US in the near future. However, insurance laws have not caught up with how to handle this situation. If there is no input from a driver, who will be held responsible for an accident? Surely, self-driving vehicles will not be completely accident-free. Computer systems or mechanical systems will fail, and it is imperative that accident victims have a way to recover compensation.

Federal and state legislators will have to closely examine existing insurance laws and either adapt them or craft new laws to handle self-driving vehicles as they become more mainstream in Texas. If you do happen to be in a wreck with a self-driving vehicle, the Houston car accident attorneys at The Doan Law Firm are ready to help.

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