Attorney Amy Witherite Warns About the Danger of Driverless Cars and Trucks on Georgia Roads
DALLAS, January 08, 2024--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Drivers beware. The 80,000-pound tractor-trailer sharing the road with you may not have a driver behind the wheel. A recently opened trucking facility in Villa Rica, Georgia, was created to serve autonomous trucks driving the heavily traveled Dallas-to-Atlanta corridor. Georgia law allows the operation of autonomous vehicles without an operator or driver.
What makes this concerning is that recently the California Department of Motor Vehicles shut down problem-plagued Cruise autonomous taxis in San Francisco, saying the vehicles, involved in several troubling incidents, presented an "unreasonable risk to the public."
Tesla has announced it is recalling more than 2 million vehicles sold in the U.S. to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.
The Washington Post recently reported:
"The crash is one of at least eight fatal or serious wrecks involving Tesla Autopilot on roads where the driver assistance software could not reliably operate, according to a Post analysis of two federal databases, legal records and other public documents. The first crash occurred in 2016, when a Tesla plowed under a semi-truck on a U.S. route in Florida. The most recent was in March when a Tesla on Autopilot failed to slow down, police said, and hit a teenager stepping off a North Carolina school bus at 45 mph."
"We have already seen problems with both autonomous trucks as well as vehicles such as Tesla with an Autopilot feature," warns Amy Witherite, founder of a law firm that specializes in vehicle accident cases. "The danger and severity of accidents will be multiplied a hundredfold when the accident involves a tractor-trailer versus a car."
"Individuals injured in a crash with an autonomous vehicle will face a much more difficult time determining who was at fault and will be responsible for deaths, serious injuries or property damage," said Martin Futrell, an attorney with the Witherite Law Group. "The amount of finger-pointing between various parties will increase tenfold because of all the technology involved."
"Anyone who has ever experienced the so-called blue screen of death on their computer understands that computers, which control autonomous vehicles, can fail," said Witherite. "Even something as simple as placing a sticker on a sign can confuse sensors, and there has been a high-profile case where a Tesla did not recognize a giant tractor-trailer truck crossing a highway, leading to a fatality.
"Any litigation that arises from this type of accident will require a new level of expertise from attorneys and a wide range of experts in computers, software, sensors and all of the other technology that goes into creating an autonomous vehicle," says Witherite. "We can expect defendants to claim their technology is proprietary or seek confidential settlements that will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to access key information needed to determine liability. We have already seen attempts in Congress to limit the amount of information that is available through binding confidential arbitration in these types of cases.
"While it is clear that new technology has made driving safe, there is also clear evidence this technology has not been perfected to the point where it is safe to operate autonomous vehicles, especially tractor-trailers at high speeds within a few feet of other vehicles," says Witherite, "and innocent drivers and passengers may well pay the price."
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