Automaker Focuses on Developing Cars that Anticipate and Avoid Accidents

Imagine a world where car accidents are a thing of the past. While this may sound like a futuristic world, it may be closer than you think.

As The Huffington Post reports, automakers currently are developing cars that integrate artificial intelligence systems that can foresee accidents and even help drivers avoid them. Toyota, for instance, has announced that its anti-crash technology will be developed over the next five years.

The Goal Is Simple: Zero Traffic Accident Deaths

Most people have either been involved in a car accident themselves, including minor fender-benders, or they know someone close to them who has been involved in a crash.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that, last year, there were 125,000 total crashes in our state, including:

  • 711 fatal accidents (causing 753 deaths)
  • 42,957 injury crashes (causing 65,029 injuries).

While the death rate of 0.91 per 100 million miles for the state of Virginia is lower than the national death rate of 1.22 per 100 million miles, zero fatalities continues to be the state’s ultimate goal. Can you imagine that world?

Looking to Robotic Research for Answers

Toyota representatives told The Huffington Post that Toyota is very confident that the company will be able to reveal some major advances in the next five years. The goal is to have a car that can drive on its own on highways by the time the 2020 Tokyo Olympics arrives.

The difference between Toyota’s research and existing crash-avoidable systems is significant, the article points out. For instance, many current systems use image sensors to avoid obstacles. For example, a car may make a sound if a driver is about to back into an object.

Toyota is more interested in conducting robotic research. In other words, the company wants to develop vehicles that do more than just avoid objects through cameras or sensors.

Instead, the company wants to make cars that actually think and take control from drivers in order to perform crash-avoidance and potentially life-saving measures.

A Toyota spokesperson described the system as being a “guardian angel.”

When Cars Go Driverless: A Different Conversation about Liability

Driverless cars which could avoid accidents and save lives would be an incredible advance. These vehicles may very well be a thing of the future.

However, with driverless vehicles, there comes a whole new conversation about liability when accidents actually do occur. If a driver was not in charge of a vehicle at the time it collided with another car or hit a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist, and someone was injured, then who would be at fault?

The answer may depend on a number of factors, including the degree of control which a driver had over a vehicle at the time of the crash.

Unless a vehicle was fully automated – meaning that a “driver” of that vehicle had virtually zero control over its operations – the driver could still be liable. This is because a driver – even one in a car with developed robotics – still would have a duty of care to pay attention, drive in a manner to avoid accidents and take reasonable action if a car accident seemed imminent.

However, in the event that a driver did not have the ability to take control of the vehicle, or the driverless vehicle malfunctioned, the driver may not be held liable. Instead, the liable parties might include the manufacturer of the driverless vehicle.

Today, car manufacturers are held responsible when their vehicles malfunction, causing an accident. If a car is defectively designed or manufactured, regardless of how advanced it is, the manufacturer justifiably should be held responsible.

Avoiding Accidents in a World without Driverless Vehicles

We hope that driverless vehicles can help put an end to the number of tragic crashes and serious injuries that occur every day in Virginia. In the meantime, though, we urge drivers to exercise caution and to drive responsibly, no matter how many crash-avoidable functions your vehicle has. When driving, be sure to:

  • Make sure you drive sober. If you have consumed a drink, do not get behind the wheel – period.
  • Be well rested before you get behind the wheel. Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  • Follow posted traffic laws. They are in place to keep you and others safe.
  • Pay attention to the road. Put away all distractions, including your cell phone.
  • Avoid road rage. Allowing your emotions to take control while you are driving can be highly dangerous.

If you are involved in a crash in Virginia and suffer injuries, please do not hesitate to contact our car accident lawyers. We understand what it takes to investigate cases, identify all potentially liable parties and pursue just compensation for our clients. You can reach us by calling our offices located throughout Virginia. Our initial consultations are always free and confidential.

Marks & Harrison was founded in 1911 by David A. Harrison, Jr. and has continued its practice uninterrupted since that time. For more than three generations our attorneys have represented the families of Virginia.