Who is Liable for My Accident in New York if Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Was in Use?

 In Blog, Law

Introduction: The Complexity of Liability in Autopilot Accidents

As technology evolves, we find ourselves in an era where vehicles can drive themselves. Tesla, a pioneer in this field, has introduced an Autopilot feature that promises to revolutionize the way we travel. However, this innovation also raises many legal questions, particularly when accidents occur. Who is liable when a Tesla on Autopilot is involved in an accident?

This question is more complex than it might seem. The legal landscape surrounding autonomous vehicles is complex and still evolving. In this post, we will delve into this intricate issue, focusing on the specific context of New York.

Understanding Tesla’s Autopilot Feature

Tesla’s Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system with features like self-steering, adaptive cruise control, and automatic lane changes. However, it’s crucial to understand that despite its name, Autopilot does not make a Tesla vehicle fully autonomous.

While the system can handle certain driving tasks, Tesla clarifies that Autopilot is intended for use with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time. This stipulation plays a significant role in determining liability in accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot.

The Legal Framework: Product Liability and Negligence

In the realm of autonomous vehicles, two key legal concepts come into play: product liability and negligence. Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer. In the context of Tesla, Tesla could be liable if the Autopilot system has a defect and causes an accident.

On the other hand, negligence involves failing to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. If a Tesla driver uses Autopilot but fails to remain attentive and ready to take over control of the vehicle, they could be found negligent if an accident occurs.

Case Studies: Autopilot Accidents and Legal Outcomes

Several accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot have made headlines, and the legal outcomes of these cases can provide insight into how liability might be determined. For instance, in a 2018 case in California, a Tesla Model X on Autopilot crashed into a highway barrier, resulting in the driver’s death. The family sued Tesla, alleging that the Autopilot system was defective. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the driver was playing a game on his phone at the time of the crash and did not have his hands on the wheel, as recommended by Tesla.

This case illustrates the complex interplay between product liability and negligence in accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot. While the lawsuit against Tesla is ongoing, the NTSB’s findings suggest that the driver’s negligence could be a significant factor in the case.

Navigating Liability in New York

New York has specific laws and regulations regarding autonomous vehicles. Currently, the state allows testing of autonomous vehicles but requires a police escort and a $5 million insurance policy. However, these regulations do not directly address using semi-autonomous features like Tesla’s Autopilot.

The same principles of product liability and negligence apply when determining liability in Autopilot-related accidents in New York. If the Autopilot system was defective and caused the accident, Tesla could be held liable. However, if the driver was not using the Autopilot system as intended, their negligence could also factor into the liability equation.

Contact the Law Office of Irene H. Gabo, P.C. for More Information

If you have questions about liability in accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Irene H. Gabo, P.C. Our experienced attorneys can provide you with the legal guidance you need. Call us at (800) 560-0214 or complete the form on our webpage for a free consultation.