Expert Witnesses on Liability in Autonomous Vehicle Cases

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Due to the rise in the creation of autonomous vehicles, expert witnessesí hires become more important, so the judge or jury is able to understand the issues and how they affect the case. Awareness in these matters increases through the utilization of the expert in the courtroom and his or her testimony to clarify the evidence and facts of the claim.

Autonomous vehicles drive through computerized systems with little to no interference by a human driver. The automatic electronics use sensors and predictive software to determine where to go, what to do and how to get there. By measuring the speeds, air conditions and other interactions, the car is able to propel through the roads and traffic without someone behind the wheel in control. The companies that own the software or vehicles themselves usually employ a complex and extensive insurance policy to protect the business and those in the vehicle. When installed with cameras and audio sensors, evidence captures what occurs to prevent litigation.

Liability and Proving the Case

When a wreck occurs where the autonomous vehicle is part of the problem, it is generally difficult to prove that the driver affected was not partially at fault due to cameras and audio equipment used against him or her. However, with an expert that has a background in software, self-driving cars or the companies testing these vehicles, chances of success may increase. It is essential to prove that the sensors or other devices in the autonomous vehicle failed during the collision to place liability with the company or car. It is also important to explain the video if it appears that the other driver injured is at fault.

The Autonomous Vehicle Expert

Many experts in self-driving vehicles have experience in engineering, designing and developing of various cars that are able to drive without someone controlling the wheel. Those that did not take part in these activities may assist in software creation and implementation. The automated cars are able to drive without a driver, and the expert needs to have the capabilities of explaining what these vehicles are and how they work. For cases against the company or car, the professional must have sufficient knowledge of the system to describe to the court how certain aspects may contain defects or issues that may lead to a collision.

Some issues that could cause an accident exist in the safety, software and electrical systems of autonomous vehicles. If a glitch fires through the software programmed with sensor input, the vehicle could move when it should not. Overloading the electronic grid could lead to a fire. This in turn would short out certain parts that run the breaks or steering or some other aspect that may cause a collision. In some of these cars, there is a manual override that permits the passenger to drive in case of defect or problem. Experts are able to describe when this occurs and how this could prevent or further lead into the incident.
Explanations in the Courtroom

For the claim against an autonomous vehicle to have any chance of success, the victimís legal party needs to prove that the self-driving car is the reason the wreck occurred. The driver affected by the autonomous vehicle cannot be at fault. Even if he or she is partially responsible, he or she may lose the case. If any video recording exists where it is proven that the driver caused the collision, the success of the claim decreases significantly. However, with the assistance of an expert witness, it is possible to increase these chances by proving and demonstrating that the autonomous car caused the problem somehow. Experts in these matters usually are able to explain the software, defect and electrical problems that arise with self-driving cars.

Explanations Described by the Expert

With his or her experience, the expert witness describes the software glitches that occur with frequency based on who created the program. Inconsistencies in the application or when implemented in certain ways could lead to an eventual failure. Defects in electrical systems may lead to overheated computer grids, failures in sensors and an inability to keep the car on the road properly.

The expert of autonomous vehicles may describe these issues to the courtroom. However, evidence usually must exist in the case. Through scientific methods, the professional may demonstrate to the judge or jury how the defects in software or a glitch may have cause the self-driving car to swerve or stop when it should not have.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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