Auto manufacturers have predicted that self-driving cars will become a common sight on the roads in Louisiana and around the country, but a spate of deadly accidents involving vehicles equipped with autonomous or semi-autonomous equipment suggest that there are many problems to iron out before human beings can safely hand over driving responsibilities to machines. One of those accidents occurred in March 2018 in Arizona, and it claimed the life of a 49-year-old woman.
The woman was struck and killed as she crossed the street by an SUV fitted with autonomous vehicle technology that was undergoing field testing for the ride-sharing company Uber. The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a hearing on Nov. 18 to determine what caused the accident, but a batch of more than 400 documents released by the agency on Nov. 5 suggest that Uber will be blamed.
The documents criticize Uber for not putting adequate safety measures into place and appointing inexperienced people to fill important positions. They also reveal that the company knew that their autonomous system was unable to identify pedestrians in the roadway. Self-driving vehicles being tested by Uber had already been involved in dozens of crashes when the fatal pedestrian accident took place, but the company continued testing anyway. However, Uber will likely avoid serious consequences as the local prosecutor does not plan to pursue a criminal indictment.
Companies that place the public at risk during product testing may be held responsible for their actions in civil court when their reckless behavior causes harm to others, and experienced personal injury attorneys may file lawsuits that seek punitive as well as compensatory damages when the facts suggest that gross negligence may have been involved. Gross negligence is recklessness so severe that injury or death becomes inevitable, and punitive damages are awarded to deter others from behaving in the same way.