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Autonomous car accidents: A new legal issue that's here to stay

Autonomous cars are safer than human-driven cars, proponents say, because self-driving cars follow the rules of the road, they don't get distracted by their cellphones and they don't drive drunk. However, are they safe enough at this stage to successfully navigate human-driven traffic and human pedestrians?

Perhaps they will be in the future, but at the moment, self-driving technology brings up a lot of questions about safety and liability.

A recent accident creates safety concerns about self-driving tech

A self-driven Volvo owned by Uber Technologies recently killed a 49-year-old pedestrian in Arizona. The woman was not crossing in a crosswalk and she was pushing her bicycle across the road at the time. A human diver was supposed to be supervising the vehicle while it was in autonomous driving mode, but the Uber SUV still struck and killed the woman.

According to police who reviewed the accident, as well as video footage from the incident, the woman came quickly out of the shadows into the roadway without warning. The police officer suspected that even a human driver would have had difficulty trying to avoid the collision. Nevertheless, this question may never be answered: Could an attentive human driver have saved this woman's life by maneuvering around the collision?

In the meantime, Uber has decided to halt open road testing of its vehicles until it fully understands what happened in the crash and how to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. "This 'timeout' is meant to give them time to come to a sense of balance about the inherent risks of their jobs," an Uber representative said.

A legal dilemma that will take time to understand

There haven't been very many instances of autonomous car accidents, mainly because there haven't been a lot of self-driven vehicles released on the road. However, as time goes on, more self-driven cars will be on the road, creating more chances for people to get hurt by them. In time, we will begin to understand how to answer questions surrounding self-driven cars and liability.

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