Simon Law Firm APRIL 2018

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april 2018

F irst S elf -D riving C ar P edestrian F atality

O n March 18, 2018, Elaine Herzberg sadly became the first fatality of the autonomous car era in Tempe, Arizona, and that is a tragedy by itself. As a result, Uber, the company that operated the car, suspended all self-driving vehicle testing pending an investigation, and Toyota quickly followed suit. The tragedy is significant for a number of reasons, as it highlights several important points. 1. Self-driving cars are not going to be perfect for many years. 2. Video in cars is going to revolutionize car accident claims faster than autonomous vehicles. 3. We all need to keep a close eye on the arbitration clauses that are going to be written into these vehicle purchases. Autonomous Cars Won’t Be Perfect Though the technology matrix of radar and cameras combined with lightning-quick processors can make recognition and response times faster than a human, there are weaknesses. For example, trees can bend under the weight of rain and obscure a stop sign, resulting in a car driving through an intersection. In the recent fatal accident, the vehicle had cameras that law enforcement reviewed. They concluded that the pedestrian stepped right out

into the street in front of the vehicle with no time for the brakes to be activated. A computer may perceive the pedestrian on the curb but have no reason to anticipate that they will step into the road, whereas a human might say, “That lady looks like she might walk in front of me. I should slow down.” The investigation also revealed that the car was going 38 mph in a 35-mph zone. Doesn’t it seem strange that the vehicle’s computer was set to go faster than the speed limit? What is the thinking there? Dashcams Will Revolutionize Accident Claims Faster Than Robot Cars Dashcams are already the standard in Europe, and they’re catching on in the States. The Uber vehicle was equipped with one, so the police were able to review the camera data and confirm that the lady stepped right into the path of the car. Chief of Police Sylvia Moir stated, “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.”

we should have video proof. That can only be a good thing. The guilty will be responsible, and the innocent will be blameless. Far fewer frivolous claims will be made, and unfair verdicts will be reduced. Congress Appears toWant Autonomous Cars The bills in Congress governing autonomous vehicles do not prohibit arbitration clauses for the purchasers of vehicles or consumers who book rides with Uber. When you buy these vehicles or take these rides, you have signed away your right to sue them if there are substantial safety defects that cause injury or death. Arbitration panels are stocked with arbitrators who will not bite the hand that feeds them. Consumers are not the repeat customer. Volvo will steer arbitrations away from arbitrators who return large awards for the injured; eventually, the entire panel will be industry-leaning. Furthermore, the results of arbitrations will be kept confidential, meaning that if there is a defect that repeatedly hurts people, it will be harder to find out and force changes. Rideshare passengers with Uber don’t realize that they have already agreed to these arbitration terms when they signed the EULA and downloaded the app. This is the first tragedy in what will be a slowly developing radical change to our world. This one is likely the pedestrian’s fault. Soon, autonomous cars should be back to testing, although maybe only in the daytime, when pedestrians are easier to spot. Time will tell. Be safe out there. –Christopher Simon

Instead of long-drawn-out swearing contests over who had the green light or who changed lanes,

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