What to do after an accident with a driverless car at work
Technology for self-driving vehicles is developing rapidly. But technology for a 100 percent driverless vehicle is not there yet commercially. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerns itself with highway safety. For regulatory purposes, they have adopted the definitions of 6 levels of automation created by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
More than a dozen companies are testing driverless car technologies. They all aim to produce safe self-driving cars that qualify for the highest SAE level—but they have a ways to go. Their major challenge is that the highest level of technology might not be capable of reacting to unusual situations that the engineers didn’t program into the system.
While a driverless car can react safely to events on a well-maintained highway, it might not know what to do on a country road in response to unprogrammed perils. For a real example, during testing, a driverless car was confused when confronted by a truckload of traffic signs headed to a construction site.
It’ll require further development of a much more sophisticated sensor technology before driverless vehicles can be widely used on America’s highways and byways. That appears to be many years off.
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Benefits of driverless vehicles
Driverless cars are seen by many as improvements to highway safety. It’s estimated that 95 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error. If driverless car technology is fully developed, it might help to overcome issues like alcohol or otherwise impaired driving, unbelted vehicle occupants, speeding and distraction.
Driverless cars will lend increased self-sufficiency to people with disabilities, including those with visual deficits or paralysis.
With a reduction in crash incidence, a reduction in economic consequences will follow because fewer crashes will also reduce insurance premiums.
History of driverless cars technology
Many people are surprised to learn that the concept of a driverless car—a traditional motor vehicle with a special capability to sense events around it and travel safely without a human driver—first took root in the 1920s.
It was later introduced at New York World’s Fair in 1939 and developed in earnest in the 1950s. Active research and development, as well as trials, began in the 1980s.
Society of Automotive Engineers
The Society of Automotive Engineers was organized shortly after the automobile became commercially available. It sets standards for automotive technology.
They published basic standards for automated vehicles in 2014. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also adopted those standards, and they’re now globally accepted.
The SAE standards break down 6 classifications according to the amount of human driver attention or intervention that’s required. The development of the technology has not yet reached the highest SAE level.
As of 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board proclaimed that no safe driverless cars (SAE level 3 or higher) can be purchased in the U.S.
The current state of the technology is this: It’s not safe to take your attention from your driver responsibilities while driving any car currently sold with this technology.
SAE’s 6 levels of vehicle autonomy
SAE’s basic standards for automated vehicles consist of 6 levels of autonomy:
- Level 0 (No autonomy). A level 0 vehicle is 100 percent manual. Currently, the majority of cars on the road are Level 0 vehicles.
- Level 1 (Minimal assistance). This level of automation has only 1 automated system. Cruise control is an example of this.
- Level 2 (Partly automated). These vehicles have advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), in which speed and steering are automatically controlled. Many manufacturers currently market cars with up to and including Level 2 automation.
This technology includes adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance; however, it requires that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and be able to resume full control at all times.
- Level 3 (Conditional automation). Level 3 vehicles will have more advanced technology for observing road and weather conditions and making safe decisions in response. However, the driver must be alert and prepared to override the system at any time. Currently, there are no vehicles available in the U.S. that meet the Level 3 requirements.
- Level 4 (Highly automated). With Level 4 systems, drivers aren’t required to take control in most instances. Level 4 cars are not commercially available, but Arizona is currently testing Level 4 vehicles for taxi service.
- Level 5 (Fully automated). If and when they become available, Level 5 cars will be equipped with 100 percent autonomous controls. No driver or equipment will be needed for manual steering, acceleration or braking. Some Level 5 cars are being tested but are not commercially available anywhere.
Increasingly concerned about the safety of the emerging driverless car technology, the NHTSA now mandates that all accidents involving vehicle and equipment manufacturers of Level 2 vehicles must be reported.
The NHTSA reports that around 830,000 of Tesla’s Autopilot-equipped cars are on the roads today. They are the most common SAE Level 2 cars on the road, so it’s expected that they’ll be involved in more reportable accidents.
For the 10 months ending in May 2022, there were 392 crashes reported.
Of those reported accidents:
- 98 included injury reports
- 11 were serious injuries
- 5 were fatal
The most common crashes involving driver-assisted technologies occur when the driver-assisted car is struck from behind by a non-assisted vehicle in a rear-end accident.
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Tesla’s self-driving features and benefits
Tesla is the most active marketer of autonomous vehicle technology. However, much of the technology it’s touting is still in a developmental stage.
It markets its systems under the names Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.
Despite its marketing names, Tesla’s technology does not allow the driver to take their attention off the road. However, Tesla’s marketing materials are covered with the disclaimer, “The currently enabled Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Every Tesla car sold in 2021 includes the Autopilot system. Its cruise control system accelerates and slows to blend with the traffic around it. It also assists in centering the car in the middle of a marked lane.
The Autopilot system is similar to adaptive cruise control, and the lane-keeping system is similar to the systems offered by Nissan’s ProPilot and Subaru’s EyeSight.
Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system is more sophisticated than Autopilot. But despite its name, it does not have SAE Level 5 capability. It can park the car and back it out of a parking space and change lanes without driver assistance.
Still being tested, the system can slow the car for stop signs and lights and navigate on and off ramps without driver assistance.
Tesla admitted to California regulators that its Full Self-Driving will remain at SAE Level 2. Despite its limitations, the Full Self-Driving option is priced at a costly $10,000.
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Other self-driving vehicles
Tesla is, of course, not the only car company developing self-driving cars. Other companies with various SAE Level qualification vehicles include:
- Waymo Driver. Waymo is a Google self-driving project. They are testing a totally autonomous technology in a ride-hailing service in Phoenix.
- Amazon’s Zoox. Amazon’s Zoox is unique among driverless vehicle technology because it’s not merely a retrofit of a conventional car design. Its design is compared to a wagon or a room on wheels. It’s designed as a ride-share vehicle with no driver, no steering wheel and no other manual controls.
- General Motors Cruise. GM’s Super Cruise is an SAE Level 2 system. It includes an adaptive cruise control to maintain a speed consistent with surrounding vehicles. It also has a lane-keeping system that centers the car in its lane, even while steering through curves.
Self-driving vehicles in development
The following self-driving vehicles are presently in various stages of development:
- Subaru EyeSight
- Volvo Pilot Assist
- Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus with Steering Assist
- General Motors Super Cruise
- Ford Blue Cruise
The future of self-driving cars
Consumers are increasingly interested in the concept of self-driving vehicles, but development is more advanced for public transportation applications.
While the convenience of driverless cars is very attractive, safety issues plague the market. The NHTSA is showing more concern with its standing order for accident reporting.
What to do if you’re injured in a self-driving car accident during work?
In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees if they’re injured on the job. You do not necessarily need to be on work property at the time of your injury, nor do you need to prove that your employer was at fault for your accident in order to receive compensation.
Georgia’s workers’ comp insurance is a no-fault system. This means that to be compensated, in most instances, you only need to prove that your injury occurred while performing your work duties.
However, if you’re involved in an accident with a self-driving car while you’re working, it’s critical that you take the following steps to ensure you remain eligible for workers’ compensation:
- Move somewhere safe, if possible.
- Call the police. The police can file an accident report and record essential details of the case.
- Gather evidence. Take photos of the scene and gather any witness statements.
- Seek medical attention. Injuries that occur during car accidents often take days or weeks to surface. To get workers’ compensation after an injury, you must be able to tie your injury to a work event. So even if you don’t immediately experience pain or other symptoms after a work-related car accident, it’s always best to seek medical treatment so any injuries can be appropriately documented.
- Report your accident and injuries to your employer. In most cases, you must report your injury to your employer within 30 days to be eligible for workers’ compensation, but the sooner, the better.
- Contact an experienced workers’ comp lawyer to help you with your case and determine how much it may be worth.
Contact an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
If you’re injured in an accident for work involving an automated vehicle, you’ll need the representation of our Atlanta car accident attorney. If the accident involves a Level 2 vehicle, there may be special considerations, such as a possible claim against the manufacturer. Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action to recover full compensation after an accident with a self-driving car.
We know how stressful it can be to deal with the aftermath of an accident while trying to recover from your injuries and pay mounting medical bills, but you don’t have to go through this difficult time alone.
At Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, our experienced attorneys provide clients with dedicated assistance so they can focus on their recovery. The last thing you should worry about while healing is dealing with an insurance company. We can negotiate with them so you don’t have to. With more than 75 years of experience, our workers’ compensation attorneys will help you get the compensation you deserve.