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Top Down Aerial Drone: Autonomous Self Driving Cars Moving Through City.

In seven years, one in 10 cars on the road are expected to be driverless. Companies are testing these vehicles en masse around the country, and Texas has become one of the leading states for autonomous vehicles. The autonomous vehicle market is quickly growing, but driverless cars aren’t yet as precise as what we see in the movies. In September, a chaotic scene erupted in Austin when dozens of driverless cars lined a block and stopped traffic. A similar incident occurred in Houston the same month after a malfunctioning traffic light caused a row of driverless cars to block traffic. And nationwide, autonomous vehicles have been involved in car crashes — some have been minor, but others have been fatal. Texas residents should know why so many autonomous cars are on the road and what to do if they’re in a car accident caused by a driverless vehicle. 

History of Driverless Cars

Autonomous cars have been around since the mid-1990s, although not at the level that they currently operate. In recent years, the driverless vehicle industry has exploded, and it’s expected to reach a market size of $62 million by 2030. Companies are racing to develop cutting-edge technologies and set themselves apart. Driverless car automation is broken into five categories. The first level includes vehicles with features like cruise control that still require a human to drive. The fifth level, which isn’t available on the market, is an entirely autonomous car without steering wheels or brakes. When Level 5 vehicles are available, they will have the same skills as a human driver. But to get there, companies must test their cars on the road — and Texas has become a leader in autonomous vehicle testing. 

According to the Texas Tribune, at least 15 autonomous vehicle companies operate in Texas. The draw is simple: legislators have made Texas especially friendly to autonomous driving. Senate Bill 2205, enacted in 2017, allows cars on the road regardless of whether a human is operating the vehicle. Crucially, it also prevents cities from intervening. 

The Texas Department of Public Safety regulates autonomous vehicles, and local municipalities can’t set their own rules regarding driverless cars. That means that Texas towns and cities aren’t able to ban driverless cars from their jurisdiction, even if they have legitimate safety concerns. Legislators say that autonomous vehicle companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the state economy. The economic impact may be positive, but the potential safety implications loom — especially when cities have no say in whether their roads will be test tracks for autonomous vehicles.

Studies have found that 98% of car crashes are caused by human error. Choices like speeding, texting while driving, and getting behind the wheel drunk all increase the risk of a tragic collision. Autonomous vehicles don’t have these concerns, so advocates say they will reduce road deaths in the long run. While they may be safer than cars driven by humans, they are prone to error. Tesla, the automotive company headquartered in Austin, has faced scrutiny from federal regulators over its autopilot system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in July that Telsa may increase the chance of collisions due to a software update that allowed drivers to keep their hands off the wheel longer. 

Who Is Responsible For An Autonomous Vehicle Crash?

After a typical Texas car accident, you should ask all parties involved for their contact and insurance information. If you file a car accident lawsuit because of injuries, you’ll likely sue the other driver for the negligence that caused the crash. But what happens if no one is behind the wheel of the other car? As technology has evolved, the process following a collision has also changed. When an autonomous vehicle causes a crash, the manufacturer can be held liable for the vehicle’s role in the crash. Suppose someone is in the car but wasn’t operating it at the time of the accident. In that case, the question of liability can become more complex — but in some cases, both the operator and the manufacturer may be found responsible. 

As driverless cars become more ubiquitous on Texas roads, the chances of autonomous car crashes are higher than ever before. If you’re involved in a car crash with a driverless car, you may have questions about how to move forward and whether you have a legal case. It’s essential to find an attorney knowledgeable about autonomous driver technology and the laws that govern these vehicles in Texas. The Cochran Firm Texas is a leading law firm that handles all car wreck cases, including collisions involving driverless cars. Call us today at 1-866-892-6148 or fill out our free consultation form for a confidential case review. 

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