Does Autopilot Absolve Someone From Drunk Driving?

These seem to be everywhere: Advertisements, online reports, news stories and blogs all about the developing automated vehicle technology. Some of the new technology is simple driving assistance, and other manufacturers are already going to full automated driving: "Autopilot."

But what happens when the car makes a mistake? Especially when the person driving is drunk, it raises serious questions about the safety of the technology and the legal ramifications of automated vehicles. Specifically, who is responsible if a drunk driver gets into an accident while his or her car is on autopilot?

Is Automated Driving Technology Safe?

It's the first and primary question - whether this technology is safe. Reports of accidents while vehicles are on autopilot are increasing in frequency. A recent report in ABA Journal discusses a recent drunk driving accident in which the driver's car was on autopilot, and these reports are not uncommon.

It is possible that the automated vehicle technology was rushed to the marketplace before all the kinks were worked out. Although the effort of this tech is to eliminate human error and bad judgments like driving drunk, the fat is that computers make mistakes too. There is no technology that can completely eliminate errors and avoid all accident.

Who is Liable?

The ABA Journal article quotes a spokesperson from Tesla, a company pioneering automated vehicle technology, as saying that autopilot should be used "only with a fully functioning driver." This is the common message surrounding these vehicles.

It is clear - or should be clear - to anyone driving an automated vehicle that they are still responsible for the operation of the vehicle. If there are mistakes made and accidents occur as a result, the driver should be ultimately responsible.

Although these cases are just starting to make their way into the courts - and there's no telling for sure what direction this type of litigation will take - it is likely that autopilot will not absolve drivers from liability in accident claims, especially when the drivers are under the influence of alcohol.

As always, we will keep our eye out on this technology and its legal developments, and we will keep you updated on any important changes.

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