In the last few years, self-driving vehicles have become more numerous and more controversial. To their fans, these cars-of-the-future take the human element out of automobile control and are far safer than human-controlled cars. To their critics, self-driving cars have not been conclusively proven to be any safer than human drivers and in many cases, appear to be more dangerous. A recent motor vehicle accident in San Francisco involving a Tesla is likely to stir the pot of controversy even more.
Recently, a Tesla ran a red light at the intersection of Taylor Street and O’Farrell Street in the afternoon. The Tesla then broad-sided another car. After hitting it, the Tesla crashed into a couple walking across the street and then hit a parked SUV. The man was killed instantly, and the woman was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Police questioned the driver of the Tesla for several hours before arresting her. The Tesla was a rental vehicle, but police said they do not know if the Tesla was operating in the autonomous mode or whether the woman was in active control of the vehicle. The Tesla driver was cooperating with police, and officers said that neither alcohol nor drugs appear to be a factor in the accident. She was ultimately charged with vehicular manslaughter and running a red light. The couple who were victims of the Tesla were spending the weekend in San Francisco to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
The advent of autonomous motor vehicles has created some new legal issues. For example, is the mere act of using the car’s self-driving features an act of negligence? Did the woman have any prior experience with self-driving vehicles? Any one who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident involving a self-driving vehicle may wish to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer for an evaluation of the evidence and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.