The same data self-driving cars collect to navigate can be used for accident reconstruction

How Autonomous Vehicles Can Make Accident Reconstruction Easier

Autonomous vehicles seem poised to improve traffic safety, reduce congestion, and make commuting less tedious. Many drivers are eagerly awaiting the day when this technology becomes accessible and affordable to all.

However, before self-driving cars go mainstream, there are some legal questions that will need to be addressed. One of these questions is liability. If a self-driving car causes an accident, who is liable? Similarly, if an autonomous vehicle commits a traffic violation, who gets the ticket? The “driver” (in cases where a human driver must be behind the wheel while the car is in operation)? The vehicle manufacturer? The answer to these questions will probably depend on how and why the accident or traffic violation took place.

Another question that is just beginning to be considered is privacy. Autonomous vehicles are able to navigate without human aid because they are constantly sensing and recording information about their location relative to the road, to other vehicles, to traffic signals, and more. This data would be a gold mine for law enforcement and other investigators seeking to gather data for a criminal or personal injury case.

Currently, in order to determine how an accident took place and who is liable, accident reconstructionists have to rely primarily on physical evidence from the scene of the accident, such as the position of the vehicles, the location and extent of vehicle damage, and tire marks on the road. Occasionally, if they are very lucky, they might find dashcam footage or surveillance footage of the accident.

If an autonomous vehicle was involved in the accident or merely present as a witness, it would have recorded vital information about the movements of the involved vehicles. By accessing this information, law enforcement or investigators could gain clear and compelling documentation of exactly how the accident occurred and who is liable.

Right now there are questions as to whether law enforcement would need a warrant to access such data from a self-driving car. Under federal law, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public. This is why police can use traffic cameras and license plate readers. In some states, this might be considered justification for vehicle manufacturers to hand over data to law enforcement. However, in California the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act requires a warrant before electronics device manufacturers are required to hand over customers’ location information.

There have not yet been any publicly known incidents of autonomous vehicle data being requested with or without a warrant in California. However, given the fact that this data could make the difference between winning and losing a car accident case, we can expect to see this happening in the future as self-driving cars become more popular.

If you have been injured in a car accident of any kind, you can trust The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker to help you secure full and fair compensation. Contact us at 800-333-0000 to learn more.

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