Self-Driving Car Accident Results in Lawsuit Against GM Over Autonomous Technology

General Motors faces a lawsuit filed by a motorcyclist, who indicates that he suffered personal injuries in an accident with one of the company’s self-driving cars. 

Oscar Nilsson filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on January 22, indicating that a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt vehicle veered suddenly into his lane, knocking Nilsson to the ground.

The accident occurred in San Francisco on December 7. Nilsson indicates that he was driving his motorcycle behind a 2016 Chevrolet Bolt vehicle operated by Manuel DeJesus Salazar, who had the vehicle in autonomous driving mode, with his hands off the steering wheel.

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Nilsson was driving behind the self-driving car when it changed lanes, and Nilsson continued to drive straight. However, the Chevrolet Bolt suddenly swerved back into Nilsson’s lane, hitting him and his bike. As a result of the accident with the self-driving car, Nilsson suffered neck and shoulder injuries and had to take disability leave from work. Nilsson’s complaint indicates that he will require lengthy treatment as a result of the accident.

“Defendent owed Plaintiff a duty of care in having its Self-Driving Vehicle operate in a manner in which it obeys the traffic laws and regulations,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant breached that duty in that its Self-Driving Vehicle drove in such a negligent manner that it veered into an adjacent lane of traffic without regard for a passing motoris, striking Mr. Nilsson and knocking him to the ground.”

A traffic accident report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles blamed Nilsson for the accident, indicating that he attempted to pass another vehicle on the right under unsafe conditions. But Nilsson has disputed that report.

GM officials say they have been testing autonomous vehicle technology on the streets of San Francisco since August 2017, putting them in purposefully challenging conditions to ensure that their safety features work. The vehicles were involved in at least six auto accidents in September alone.

Federal Push For Self-Driving Technology

The lawsuit comes amid a push for the advancement and deployment of self-driving vehicles by federal regulators, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

New federal guidance, A Vision for Safety 2.0, was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the NHTSA  in September, providing recommendations for the automotive industry and States to follow while developing the evolving technologies used in self-driving vehicles.

The guidance provides support and regulatory cover to help automotive companies develop autonomous driving technologies that are designed to prevent human-error accidents such as crashes caused by lane departures and failure to brake, which make up the majority of auto accidents.

The Vision for Safety 2.0 indicates an estimated 94% of automobile accidents are caused or contributed to by human error that could be preventable once proper self-driving technologies such as lane departure, automatic braking, and various others are sufficient for use.

Autonomous vehicle technologies that could prevent drivers from veering off of the road could save thousands of pedestrian and bicyclists lives annually, and could also prevent collisions from vehicles drifting into oncoming traffic due to distracted driving, such as texting.


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