Insurance Industry Asks: Who Is Liable When Uber Self-Driving Cars Cause Fatal Accidents?

Pedestrian killed by self-driving Uber vehicle in Arizona
The Associated Press

Legal analysts are grappling with a new liability issue after Uber’s autonomous car accident this week led to the death of a pedestrian.

A self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona this week, raising new questions about liability in accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

A new report from Insurance Journal explains how legal analysts are approaching the new complex issue.

On Sunday, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was struck by a self-driving Uber car traveling at approximately 40 miles per house. Herzberg was walking her bicycle outside the crosswalk on a four-lane road in a suburb of Phoenix.

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, said that most states require drivers to exercise due care when driving to avoid hitting pedestrians that might be crossing over a roadway.

Some legal experts say that lawsuits will be aimed at the software responsible for the autonomous driving. Attorneys will likely look to see if a flaw in the self-driving software was responsible for the accident.

Smith argued that Uber is likely to settle litigation over injuries or deaths caused by self-driving vehicles quickly in order to avoid negative publicity.

It was revealed this week that the transgender woman behind the wheel of the self-driving car was Rafaela Vasquez, who was hired by Uber to monitor the self-driving car trials. Vasquez has two felony convictions and served a five-year sentence for an attempted armed robbery in the past.

Friends of Elaine Herzberg have argued that Uber should be shut down over their neglect. “Uber should be shut down for it. There has to be a bigger punishment than not allowing them to drive it on the street,” one friend said.

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