California residents who are involved in an accident with a self-driving car could have limited recourse if automakers get their way. Per Uber's terms of service, the families of those who are killed in its self-driving vehicles have to go to arbitration as opposed to court to settle the matter. A group of senators are now asking other major car companies if they plan to do the same with their autonomous vehicles.
Going to arbitration can help companies because they generally hire the arbitrator. The prospect of repeat business for whoever fulfills that role could lead to a cozy relationship with an automaker. Furthermore, anyone who participates in arbitration is not allowed to to take part in a class-action lawsuit. The senators noted in their letter that accountability is one of the keys to continued innovation in the autonomous vehicle sector. Without it, automakers may have no incentive to provide a safe product.
In addition to Uber and Tesla, major car companies such as Honda and Toyota received the letter. Congress is considering legislation that would allow companies to sell up to 80,000 self-driving cars per year. It is believed that these vehicles will operate in a manner that reduces accidents and the consequences that come from them. However, there was no immediate comment from the automakers regarding the letter.
A motor vehicle collision may result in significant consequences for the pedestrians, passengers or drivers involved. In some cases, accidents could include serious injury or death. An auto accident attorney may be able to review a case to determine if a victim or that person's family is entitled to compensation. Legal counsel could review cell phone records, physical evidence or witness statements to determine if distracted, impaired or otherwise negligent driving caused a crash.