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Driverless cars and their impact on road safety, insurance, and automobile accident lawyers

  • January 4, 2017
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • automobile accident lawyers, autonomous vehicles, car accident, driverless cars, driving tips, injury lawyer, Insurance, liability, motor vehicle accident, Ontario personal injury lawyer, personal injury, personal injury law, Personal Injury Lawyer, Toronto personal injury lawyer, Toronto personal injury lawyers, Will Davidson LLP,

Autonomous vehicles – or driverless cars – are now a reality in Ontario. On November 28, a pilot project launched by the University of Waterloo, the Erwin Hymer Group, and BlackBerry QNX placed three autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the province’s road. The project will assess AVs’ impact on energy and land use, employment, and perhaps most importantly, road safety. How will the introduction of driverless vehicles impact Ontario’s citizens, insurance companies, and automobile accident lawyers?

Autonomous vehicles today

Ontario is Canada’s leader in terms of funding and testing autonomous technology, but the country as a whole is lagging behind its G7 peers. “Within Canada this is a first and it’s a very important first,” Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, told the CBC.

“At an international level we have a lot of catching up to do,” Kirk added. “When I look at the G7 countries, we in Canada are dead last in developing self-driving cars. This is a big and important step forward, but we need a lot more deals like this.”

South of the border, AVs are on the roads in several states: Uber is testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh; Google has been operating vehicles in California for several years; and last March the Audi SQ5 drove from west coast to east in autonomous mode 99 per cent of the time. Ford plans to launch an “Uberlike” fleet of autonomous vehicles by 2021, and companies like Tesla, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz are slowly implementing autonomous features in their current models.

Impact on Safety

It may seem counter-intuitive, but releasing cars from human control could save thousands of lives each year. The vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error, so putting computers in charge could reduce accidents exponentially. In fact, recent declines in road fatalities can be partially attributed to innovative autonomous driving features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic braking, and technology that maintains a safe distance between cars.

Today, car accidents are a leading cause of death and serious injury in both Canada and the United States. And while automobile accident lawyers can assist injury victims in accessing compensation for the damages they have incurred, public safety would greatly benefit from a significant reduction in motor vehicle accidents.

Impact on insurance companies

The insurance industry may have something to fear from the advent of autonomous vehicles. As Warren Buffett told CNBC earlier this year, “anything that makes cars safer is very pro-social and bad for the auto insurance industry.”

“If there are no accidents,” Buffett bluntly said, “there is no need for insurance.”

Indeed, some automobile manufacturers, including Volvo and Ford, have stated that they will accept liability for crashes involving their driverless cars that may occur in the future. Between this possibility and a general reduction in accidents, insurance companies will have to adapt to stay alive.

So, too, will automobile accident lawyers. “If driverless cars do prove as safe as predicted – then who knows, maybe the government will make them mandatory and the days of operator based driving will be gone,” says Will Davidson LLP’s Paul Cahill. Such a system would likely produce far fewer accidents, but more lawsuits implicating automobile manufacturers.

Impact on the law

Of particular interest to Ontario’s automobile accident lawyers will be the potential legal changes which derive from the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

“The law right now is pretty much silent on the issue,” Mark Virgin, a BC injury lawyer, told the Globe. “Autonomous vehicles in Canada, they are not being spoken to in any of the legislation. It is the area we are most behind.”

Before AVs become ubiquitous on Ontario’s roads, a number of questions must be answered. Will children be able to operate the vehicles? Will they require a license? Can they be used while their passengers are inebriated? Will ‘driving and texting’ be a crime of the past?

The federal government has earmarked $7-million over two years to work on regulatory framework for emerging technology like AVs, and a Senate committee on Transport and Communications will also study the issue.

Injured in a crash? Call the automobile accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today

While autonomous vehicles may be a great boon for road safety when they are widely introduced in Ontario, today car accidents remain a significant danger to public safety. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the automobile accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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