“When a self-driving vehicle causes a crash, who is at fault?” has been a question occupying the minds of civil trial lawyers for some time. Likewise, criminal defense attorneys have wondered whether criminal charges might ever be filed in an autonomous vehicle claim – and if so, who would be charged and with what crime.
At least one of these questions is on its way to a first answer. A San Francisco motorcyclist is suing General Motors after he was hit by a Chevrolet Bolt in self-driving mode at the time of the accident and with a human backup driver behind the wheel.
According to the lawsuit, the motorcyclist was riding in a lane beside the self-driving Bolt when the car veered into his lane, striking the motorcyclist and knocking him over.
However, the accident report filed after the case paints a slightly different picture. The two vehicles were traveling at about 15 miles per hour, according to the accident report, when the Bolt tried to move from the center to the left lane of traffic. When braking vehicles ahead of the car made the space too small to complete the lane change, the Bolt returned to the center lane and hit the motorcyclist as he was attempting to pass by lane splitting.
Lane Splitting in Self-Driving Vehicle Accident
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist tries to ride side by side with traffic in the same lane or pass between two lanes of traffic by riding on the lane lines. While California allows lane splitting, this is allowed only when it is “safe and prudent” to do so – and bikers are still considered to be at fault under the state’s civil laws when they are injured.
GM says that it tests self-driving vehicles in challenging conditions on purpose, in order to ensure that the technology can handle any real-world situation. So far, GM autonomous vehicles have been involved in multiple no-fault collisions, according to San Francisco police reports.
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