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Cars May Soon Confess Negligent Driving

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Drivers in California and across the rest of the U.S. may not be able to hide their mistakes behind the wheel much longer. Vehicle "black boxes" are becoming more sophisticated in relaying information back to car manufacturers and insurance companies. This means that it could soon be difficult for at-fault drivers to shirk responsibility for car accidents.

For example, the owner of a Tesla Model X SUV recently crashed into the side of a building and claimed that the vehicle accelerated on its own. However, Tesla vehicles send real-time data to their manufacturers. The data from this car showed that the driver hit the accelerator and caused the crash. Most vehicles do not record as much detail as a Tesla Model X or have the capability to send information over the Internet. However, most cars do have basic black boxes. By 2020, 90 percent of new cars are expected to have data recorders that send detailed crash info via the Internet.

Automakers are interested in black boxes because they are an avenue into the insurance business. The boxes also provide critical data that manufacturers can use in the development of self-driving cars. While some drivers may feel data recorders are an invasion of privacy, multiple studies have shown that accident rates drop significantly when taxi companies and other businesses add the devices to their fleets.

Police investigators can use automobile black box data and other crash scene evidence to determine the cause of an injury or fatal car accident. Individuals who have been injured in a car crash caused by another party could use this information to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. A successful complaint could bring compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.

Source: MIT Technology Review, "Tesla Knows When a Crash Is Your Fault, and Other Carmakers Soon Will, Too," Tom Simonite, June 8, 2016