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Self-Driving Cars Are Going To Change Accident Law

As part of his last year in office, President Obama announced his intention to help the future of personal transportation arrive a little faster. He is committing four billion dollars to the research and testing of self-driving cars, as an attempt to accelerate the entry of this high-tech advance into the mainstream. Essentially, he would like to see to it that everyday Americans can have the opportunity to buy and use self-driving cars and by providing more funding for tests and live, on-the-field research and evaluation, it brings this future a little faster.

Surprisingly, Florida is one of the pioneering states that is already participating in the testing of self-driving cars. This means that locals may one day either see—or even own—a car that can drive and park itself with no aid from a human driver.

For the very large retired population of Florida, this may be a potentially great chance to regain some independence and mobility. It would allow the aged and infirm to once again enjoy the ability to go where they please in a car, just like they did in their youth. It may even benefit more able-bodied drivers in certain situations, such as being able to still use a car even though the plan that night is to have fun drinking, and becoming intoxicated, and in emergency situations, a car that can drive itself to the hospital even though someone is injured has obvious benefits.

The Future Means Change

But all of these incoming changes mean there will have to be some big adjustments made not just to way the average driver in Florida lives, but even in the ways that Florida law enforcement and court systems interpret the law. Speeding tickets, for example, may go down dramatically in the future if more cars on the road automatically obey speed limits. Even minor fender benders from parking accidents may become a thing of the past for cars that automatically, precisely park themselves.

And when it comes to accidents, things take a very interesting turn. So far in testing, the accidents that self-driving cars have been involved in have always been the fault of other human drivers on the road reacting badly to the self-driving car’s legal driving behavior. This has been backed up by the fact that, unlike normal cars, self-driving cars have an array of sensory devices that are constantly monitoring the environment, including other cars on the road, and making logs of all interactions with other cars.

In other words, self-driving cars have a battery of photographic, radar and laser recorded proof of what they were doing at the time of an accident and, more importantly what human drivers were doing that caused the accident.

This means, in the future, when there is a dispute about what happened in a car accident, the self-driving car will have a wealth of actual traffic data that precisely records what other cars in the area are doing. It can report on position, speed and many other factors, so even if a human driver says “That self-driving car crashed into me,” the actual data can precisely report that the human driver actually illegally changed lanes, far over the speed limit and tried to squeeze in.

Self-driving car data takes all the uncertainty out of witness reports and instead provides clear, irrefutable mechanically recorded evidence of what happens during car accidents.

What This Means For Drivers

For those new families with very young children, you may be looking at a future where, by the time your child is old enough to learn how to drive, he or she may not have to. In fact, from an insurance and legal protection perspective, car owners of the future may be better off not being drivers.

If self-driving cars record all traffic data, and the trend continues of accidents with self-driving cars always being the fault of human drivers trying to break the law, insurance rates may favor people that use self-driving cars. Because self-driving cars can present all the information about what occurs during an accident, police, lawyers, insurance companies and judges will be relying on this data as key evidence in trying to determine the true nature of car accidents to see who it is that is truly liable. For car crash lawyers in particular, this kind of data will be invaluable in court to prove guilt of another party for neglect, and insurance companies of victims will cling to and emphasize this kind of data for determining claims and fault.

We may be looking at a future where those who insist on driving their own car will be considered a higher risk by insurance companies, and less likely to be believed in court if they don’t have a car that records traffic data the way self-driving cars do.