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Entries in car accident (7)

Wednesday
Apr052017

"Look Mom No Hands!" But Lots of Rules for AI Cars in California

Personal InjuryPersonal Injury Attorney

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

You may have heard the news: An Uber Technologies Inc. autonomous vehicle was involved in an accident in Arizona. A human driver in a Honda CRV turning left at a yellow light hit the self-driving Volvo as it was crossing the intersection. Though the Volvo flipped onto its side after hitting a pole, no serious injuries were reported.

Accident investigators found the human driver to be at fault. The artificially intelligent (AI) vehicle was traveling just under the speed limit, and the employee “behind the wheel” stated he saw the Honda driver but did not have time to react.

Self-Driving Cars in California

An accident eyewitness thought whoever was driving the Volvo was “trying to beat the light” and hit the gas hard, which initially sounds as though the accident could have been avoided.

But an Uber spokesperson said their self-driving vehicles are programmed to maintain current speeds when approaching yellow lights, and to pass through if there is enough time to cross the intersection. If true, this only goes to show how eyewitnesses can sometimes perceive situations incorrectly. It also begs the question: 

As more AI vehicles take over the road, will human drivers have to adjust habits accordingly?

Here in Los Angeles, we’ve all seen two, three or even four cars turning left through an intersection after a light has changed to red – simply because those drivers had no opportunity to do so when their traffic lights were green or yellow. But if self-driving cars are programmed to go through without allowing the humans the belated though illegal opportunity to turn, we could see an increase in traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities for a while.

Who will be held liable? The drivers that force their way through the intersection when they don’t have the legal right of way? Or must other drivers yield the right of way to vehicles already in the intersection? We are all obligated to follow the letter of the law, even if it seems impractical.

The Silicon Valley State vs. the Motor City State

It’s interesting to note that Arizona is one of the states that impose few restrictions on companies wanting to road test their AI vehicles. Michigan’s robocar rules are also minimal – apparently, anyone (presumably with a valid driver’s license) who wants to drive an AI vehicle in that state may do so. Other states have followed suit to encourage driverless cars, on the theory they’re safer than human-operated vehicles.

California, home to Silicon Valley and many tech giants with skin in the AI game, is surprisingly a bit stricter. 

This state requires Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permits from the Occupational Licensing Branch (form OL 311), per Vehicle Code §38750. Autonomous testers must also submit either a Manufacturer Surety Bond (OL 317), or a Certificate of Self Insurance (OL 319), and certain company structures require submission of Articles of Incorporation, Corporate Minutes, and identities of key executives. Going to Michigan for testing certainly sounds a lot easier, if you can stand the snow.

California Road Trippin’

Autonomous Vehicle Accident LiabilityAbout 30 autonomous vehicle tech companies have applied to the CA DMV to test their autonomous vehicles on our streets and highways since 2014. Uber is one of the companies that initially refused to comply with the licensing requirements, and shipped their AI vehicles to more robot-friendly states. The Financial Times reports the ride-hail company is now licensed to drive driverless in the Golden State too.

According to the DMV, about 25 autonomous vehicle accident reports have been filed since the state first began permitting AI vehicle testing. Most of these accidents seem to be caused by human error – mostly humans driving non-autonomous vehicles.

When you look at the individual reports, you’ll see that many of them involve vehicles using Google technology – but upon reading the reports you’ll notice that most involve rear-end collisions where the AI vehicle was the one hit from behind.  

Self-Driving Accident Liability

As we saw above, most of the AI accidents in California were caused by humans, not technology. And it’s unclear at this point, should anyone suffer injuries or a fatality in these accidents who would be to blame. Clients engaging injury attorneys may find themselves going after the vehicle manufacturer, the software programmer as well as the vehicle’s owner.

And of course, passengers in autonomous vehicles who suffer injuries due to the error of human drivers, will have access to traditional remedies – going after the other driver and his/her insurance company.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
Jan252017

“Way Mo” Autonomous Cars Coming Fast

Personal InjuryPersonal Injury Attorney

 

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

It’s a race to beat all races:  several car makers, including Ford, General Motors, Volvo, BMW and Tesla are promising fully autonomous vehicles within the next five years. Not far behind the pack, Google recently renamed its own autonomous contender the “Waymo”, according to Bloomberg Tech. And Nissan is big in Japan with plans to have commercial, driverless vehicles up and running on its home turf by 2020.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that 10 sites across the nation were chosen for the testing of artificially intelligent (AI) vehicles. Two of these are right here in California – at the Contra Costa Transportation Authority in Walnut Creek, and the San Diego Association of Governments.

So what does all of this mean for driver safety?

It’s still too early to tell. For now, the general public can rest assured that the DOT’s designated test sites are meant to be just that – test sites. Automakers running cars at these locations are expected to share test results and tech knowledge per a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released in September.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explained:

This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment. 

Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Last May a driver was killed in Florida when his autonomously driven Tesla crashed into a truck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration though, recently concluded that Tesla was not at fault. NHTSA said driver-assist software for the vehicle performed “as designed”, and that drivers should still pay attention when behind the wheels of AI vehicles.

The feds investigated other AI crashes and found that many of these were because of “driver behavior factors”.

Overall, even the insurance industry is gearing up for safer highways and streets. Once autonomous vehicles really get rolling, the industry expects a decline in driver insurance premiums, though it also expects an increase in product liability revenue. The reason?

Drivers involved in crashes will sue each other less and less, and will instead turn to car makers to satisfy injury claims.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Feb112016

Mile Marker: Google Beginning to Clear Legal Hurdles for Self-Driving Cars (but many more ahead)

Personal InjuryPersonal Injury Attorney

 

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

Self-Driving-Cars

 

Can self-driving vehicles (SDVs) use the carpool lane? That may be a legal question for another day, as SDVs still have barricades to overcome before moving to the fast lane and becoming available commercially for consumers. 

But the Federal Government opened the door – by giving serious consideration to, and taking the first steps in expanding, the previously unambiguous term “driver” – to include the Artificial Intelligence (AI) operating Google’s Self-Driving System, along with human motor vehicle operators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, or Administration) just responded to a November letter from Chris Urmson, Google’s Director of the company’s Self-Driving Car Project, which requested the interpretation of federal driving laws as they pertain to SDVs. Google hopes to make SDVs commercially available to the public by 2020, and that means making them compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

The NHTSA did grant some interpretations, but remains hesitant on others, citing a need for further Google SDV testing and further legislation in the future.

One reason for the Administration’s caution is that most FMVSS were written for vehicles of the past century, when all cars had human drivers sitting in the front left of a vehicle, with access to, and control of, steering and braking systems. The laws weren’t written to accommodate AI drivers or cars.

But the NHTSA did manage to favorably interpret some of Google’s questions re SDVs. They include:

1. Self-Driving Systems are drivers, in terms of certain operations like using turn signals and hazard signals; making transmission shifts; idling; parking and accelerating. 

2. Driver seatbelts may not be necessary, since the NHTSA interprets “driver” as the SDS in the case of Google’s proposed vehicle design: 

“It is possible that the provision as specifically written is not necessary for safety as applied to Google’s vehicle design, but Google has not demonstrated that in its present interpretation request.  FMVSS No. 208 would need amendment to clarify how a vehicle design like Google’s might comply with it.  One safety concern is that a human occupant could sit in any DSP [designated seating position], and that therefore the non-wearing of a seat belt by any occupant could create a safety risk.”  

3. Questions re Electronic Stability Control Systems (ESC) need further review, because the FMVSS mandate specific performance requirements for ESC systems. Though the NHTSA agrees that a Google-designed SDS is in fact the actual driver, the Administration feels a need to determine in future: 

“…how to evaluate the SDS control of the steering inputs, and whether and how to modify test conditions and procedures to address more clearly the situation of a vehicle with steering controlled entirely by an AI driver, with no mechanism for the vehicle occupants to affect the steering.”

A Futuristic Legislative Highway for Driverless Cars

Artificially Intelligent Vehicles

Self-driving test vehicles already cruise the streets. However, California DMV rules – where Google operates most of its prototypes – require human, licensed drivers to be inside with access to steering, brake and gas pedals. They must monitor the SDV’s operations at all times, and be ready to take control should technology fail or other emergencies arise.

Google’s November letter to NHTSA expresses concern that human error will make their completely autonomous SDVs unsafe should the humans try to override artificial intelligence.

The Administration acknowledged this concern, paving the way for years of further extensive testing and monitoring of vehicles completely controlled by AI with no human override capabilities.

But the proverbial genie is out of the bottle – Federal Rules will have to be modified to keep up with and include SDVs. There is much work to be done on both sides of this issue before we will have an SDV in our own garages – a prospect that is both scary and exciting for some of us.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Jan262016

On the Road: Safer Rental Cars

Injury Attorney Los AngelesAccident Attorney

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

A mind boggling number of cars are on the recall list for safety problems – including about 34 million American vehicles for defective Takata airbags alone. Additionally, last year was a record for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which levied nearly $300 million in fines against Takata, Honda, Chrysler and BMW, according to Car and Driver.

Defective Cars

Recalls and fines are all well and good for holding automakers and their suppliers accountable for safety but sometimes, it takes solid legislation to curb the defects that injure and kill drivers and their passengers. That may come with the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.

The Safe Rental Car Act is named for two sisters driving north from Ojai to Santa Cruz in a rented PT Cruiser in 2004. While driving, the car swerved off California Highway 101, hit an oncoming 18-wheeler and then burst into flames.

Initially the rental company blamed bad driving, and even speculated the accident wasn’t an accident at all – that Raechel (the driver) committed suicide and killed her sister as well.  The truth however, is that there was a recall for PT Cruisers because of faulty power steering hoses, which potentially could lead to loss of steering and fires.

There were no laws prohibiting vehicle rental companies from continuing to loan out cars despite these dangerous recalls. In fact, an area manager for Enterprise (the company that rented the car to the Houck sisters) said that it was corporate policy to rent out unrepaired, recalled vehicles if no other cars were available.

Cally Houck, mother of Raechel and Jacqueline, spearheaded a campaign to put a stop to this policy, which she considers “corporate malfeasance”. Enterprise admitted liability and was ordered by a jury to pay the Houck parents $15 million in 2010. The company began supporting the Houck Bill shortly thereafter, and was soon followed by Hertz and Avis.

The Houck Bill: Corporate Roll Call

Since then, several organizations and corporations (including the American Car Rental Association, Honda and General Motors) eventually helped champion Houck’s cause.

On the other hand, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association opposed the bill, citing less dangerous defects like mislabeled parts and other minor issues which may prohibit companies from getting their cars leased or sold.

Chrysler, maker of the PT Cruiser and company subject to some of those NHTSA fines mentioned above, was opposed to the Safe Rental Car Act.  

Car Recall

The bill also found opposition with car dealers, who feared a law that could pit large rental companies against consumers – who should the dealerships service first, given a finite number of parts and services available? Auto dealers also argued that they shouldn’t be treated like rental companies, as they only keep a few cars on hand as “loaner vehicles” when customers come in for service. 

Safer Cars: Where Do we Stand Now?

The Houck Safe Rental Car Act passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and was then signed by President Obama as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. It amended §30102(a) of title 49, U.S. Code. The law now affects (a) vehicles under 10,000 pounds, (b) rented without a driver for less than four months, (c) that are part of a fleet of 35 or more vehicles (most auto dealers providing “loaner” vehicles will be exempt from the law under this condition) used for rental purposes. 

  1. Rental companies will not be able to rent or sell vehicles once they receive notification of a recall approved by the NHTSA until the defect is remedied. 

  2. Companies must comply within 24 hours of notice, unless the company has more than 5,000 vehicles in service. In that case, vehicles must be grounded within 48 hours of notice. 

  3. A company may rent, but not sell or lease, recalled vehicles if the remedy is not immediately available and if the company takes action to eliminate the risk (i.e. the company may remove defective floor mats that may jam under gas and brake pedals, should replacement mats not be immediately available from the manufacturer). 

The Secretary of Transportation will submit a congressional report within a year of enactment of the Safe Rental Car Act, regarding the effectiveness of the amendments and findings of related studies.

This may not be the far-reaching safety bill that Cally Houck initially intended, but hopefully, it will help prevent or at least minimize the number of truly horrible accidents like the one that took her daughters’ lives, from occurring in the future.

David B. Bobrosky is a Shareholder in our Personal Injury Practice Group

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Cracking Down on Hit and Run Via Social Media

Injury Attorney Los AngelesPersonal Injury Lawyer

 

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

About 80 percent of hit and run cases between 2008 and 2012 in the Los Angeles area were never solved, according to the Los Angeles Times. Compare that to the city of Denver, whose police force actually resolves about 78 percent of that city's hit and run crimes. 

The reason for the difference? A program called Medina Alerts, which works like the Amber Alert system. Medina Alerts is named for a 21 year old Denver valet who was killed by a hit and run driver while on the job. The Medina system was implemented in 2012 and Colorado's governor approved it for state-wide use last year – City Hall officials here in Los Angeles unanimously approved launching a similar program here.

The hit and run crackdown will have several components: 

  1. All Los Angeles city departments will help to put out notifications on the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the Emergency Management Department's NotifyLA texting system.

  2. The Los Angeles Police Department will post notifications on Nixle – a web platform on which government agencies share information with each other and certain subscribers.

  3. DASH bus drivers and licensed taxi drivers will receive notifications via dispatch systems, and other city employees such as sanitation workers may get the notifications in the future. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft may also participate in the future.

  4. Witnesses can receive rewards for coming forward with information leading to a hit and run arrest: $1,000 for property damage, $5,000 for hit and runs leading to minor injuries, $25,000 for those involving serious injuries and $50,000 for hit and run crimes involving fatalities. 

Hit and run alerts will be initiated only when serious bodily injury or fatalities occur, and if witnesses can provide sufficient information regarding the fleeing driver in terms of the driver’s  physical description,  the vehicle's color, partial plate numbers, make or model, etc.

 

Hit and Run: How Will the Law Change?

California Attorney

Los Angeles City Council asked city attorneys to draft a special ordinance regarding the monetary rewards listed above. Members also voted to support California legislation intended to create a state-wide alert system. Councilman Mitchell Englander said, "these are not accidents – these are crimes" at a recent news conference. 

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced California Assembly Bill 8 in December – intended to launch a "Yellow Alert" system for hit and run accidents. Governor Brown vetoed a similar legislative effort earlier last year, amid concerns hit and run notifications would overburden the Amber Alert program.

As for why the City of Los Angeles rather than the state seems to be riding point in this endeavor, Englander explained that the city is better able to implement a program immediately. 

Compensation Following a Hit and Run Accident

The large number of unresolved hit and run cases in Los Angeles serves as yet another reminder of the importance of uninsured motorist coverage. Considering the 20,000 or so hit and run accidents occurring in this city each year, it is the most important coverage drivers can buy.

Such coverage, especially for hit and run accidents, can garner compensation from the hit and run victim's own insurance carrier for property damage, medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering – up to the limits of the uninsured coverage. Uninsured limits should always match liability limits.

When a hit and run driver is caught, the victim may also be entitled to additional compensation by making a claim against the driver’s insurance carrier. This is especially important if the victim does not have uninsured coverage. 

Additionally, the victim may pursue restitution through the criminal court system—which could include attorney fees for pursuing compensation for injuries and punitive damages for the driver fleeing the scene.  All such damages may not always be recoverable depending on the financial viability of the defendant.

 

David B. Bobrosky is a Personal Injury Attorney and Shareholder at our firm. Contact him via email: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3254. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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