In West Virginia and across the U.S., self-driving vehicles are still rare, but it seems that they are injuring both drivers and pedestrians. In one recent incident in Utah, the driver of a Tesla Model S collided with a fire truck because she was looking down at her phone. The Tesla Autopilot program was on the whole time.
The media coverage of the event has been so widespread that it prompted criticism from the Tesla CEO and from supporters of the company. Their comments on social media question why the news media must focus on such a minor accident because the Utah driver survived with only a broken ankle; by comparison, there are hundreds of fatal accidents on America’s roads each day.
According to many, the reason for such coverage is simple: The accident speaks directly to people’s concerns about the safety of semi-autonomous vehicles. A RAND study suggests that semi-autonomous vehicles should be test-driven for billions of miles before being considered safe. Tesla has not reached such numbers yet; most semi-autonomous tech has been developed in a regulatory vacuum.
Tesla has warned against distracted driving but has not discussed whether it will try to improve safety standards. Despite the small numbers of Tesla vehicles on the road, their crash rates are reportedly high. Many people feel that the CEO’s remarks miss the point.
Regardless of whether the Autopilot program can be blamed for negligent driving, the driver certainly can be. Accident victims may be able to file a claim against the guilty driver’s auto insurance company in the effort to be reimbursed for medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. An attorney may help gather important evidence like police reports and eyewitness testimony, calculate a fair settlement and negotiate for it. Victims might also have their lawyer speak on their behalf in court.