Have You Seen Them? Uber Resumes Self-Driving Car Testing in San Francisco

Have You Seen Them? Uber Resumes Self-Driving Car Testing in San Francisco

Self-driving Ubers are back on the streets of San Francisco. So far, there are just two autonomous Volvo XC90 SUVs and they operate only during daytime hours in a testing mode that doesn’t involve picking up passengers.

Uber is reintroducing these so-called “driverless” vehicles, which actually have human pilots to override technology failures in the event of an emergency. Of course, humans are prone to failures too.

Remember Uber’s fatal pedestrian crash in Arizona? An investigation found that the driver was looking down at her phone watching “The Voice” when the self-driving Uber ran over and killed a pedestrian.

So if you’re concerned about our city’s self-driving cars, you’re not alone. The whole world is watching to see what happens here in San Francisco.

What Have We Learned So Far From Self-Driving Ubers?

Uber says their ongoing testing is a good thing for the citizens of San Francisco. Our city’s streets are notoriously crowded and tricky to navigate, offering challenges that will hopefully improve self-driving technology and road safety for everyone.

In a statement to the media, an Uber spokesperson said, “Our testing area will be limited in scope to start. But we look forward to scaling up our efforts in the months ahead and learning from the difficult but informational road conditions that the Bay Area has to offer."

So, what do we know so far about driverless Uber technology? Here are some findings from Uber tests and a report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

  • Self-driving cars don’t always see jaywalkers. Jaywalk at your own risk, because the human form is still hard for self-driving cars to recognize outside of crosswalks and sidewalks.
  • Cyclists and scooter users are at risk too. Like pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders are small enough that they may be difficult for self-driving cars to sense.
  • The braking systems are still being refined. The NTSB investigation into the Arizona pedestrian death found the “braking system was not designed to avoid an imminent collision.” Uber is trying to improve this technology.
  • Self-driving cars have blind spots for road hazards. It’s sometimes hard for self-driving cars to sense road debris and uneven surfaces. In a video released by Uber and Wired.com, a test driver said, “The car doesn’t understand potholes. It will ride right into one.”
  • They make sudden stops. When the car detects a safety issue nearby, it will sometimes jerk to an abrupt stop and create a risk of rear-end collisions. A test driver said it happens near pedestrians and “sometimes for no discernable reason.”
  • Self-driving car testing is still somewhat unregulated. As safety experts push for more regulation of these tests, Uber has pushed back. In 2017, the city of San Francisco revoked the registrations of Uber test cars due to the company’s refusal to get a $150 permit.

Since then, Uber has been working with San Francisco officials to stay within the law, but there seems to be an uneasy truce when it comes to regulation. Recently, a San Francisco Public Press investigation found that Uber may be hiding safety reports from the public under an obscure loophole known as Footnote 42.

What Happens if You’re Injured by a Self-Driving Car?

Self-driving technology is still evolving and the California legal system is trying to stay ahead of the curve in terms of personal injury claims. Under California law, you can sue a driver who injures you in an accident, but what about a self-driving car?

There’s no way to hold a car legally responsible for an accident. Ultimately, it comes down to who owns the car, who was driving it, what happened, and whose insurance applies.

If your accident involves a self-driving car owned by an individual, you might be compensated by that person’s insurance company. Your own insurance might come into play if you were driving, or even as a bicyclist or pedestrian. However, navigating all of the potentially applicable insurance policies by yourself can be overwhelming.

If the vehicle is owned by Uber and is in testing mode, you’ll have to go after Uber and their insurance company. By law, the company is required to maintain $1 million in insurance in case of injuries in road accidents. Of course, it could be very difficult to make them pay your claim without the help of an experienced San Francisco Uber accident lawyer.

There’s also the issue of shared responsibility. In the Arizona pedestrian fatality, the NTSB found four-way shared blame between Uber’s faulty technology, the distracted human driver, the jaywalking pedestrian, and the state of Arizona.

Self-Driving Car or Not, You Deserve Compensation

Knowing all this, it’s important to remember: Even if your accident involves a self-driving car, and even if you share part of the blame, you can still sue for compensation under California law.

You need to make a personal injury claim to recover the costs of your past and future medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damage, and pain and suffering. But there’s no guarantee that an insurance company or anyone else will actually write you a check. In order to secure compensation for your accident, you may need a talented, and experienced lawyer who knows how to handle Uber self-driving car accidents.

You may have heard about a huge change in how the state of California views rideshare drivers. You should know that California law regarding rideshare services is constantly evolving. Lawmakers are scrambling to update the law. Learn the latest here.


Donna N.

I had a bad accident that left me with a fractured sternum and stuck to a hospital bed. Luckily I found Sally and her team. I was bombarded from the start with the car insurance people, the bills were piling up from both hospitals and ambulance company and my own healthcare provider. Sally and Carmen took care of everything and let me concentrate on getting better and always keeping me in the loop with any questions or concerns I needed. I had a hefty medical bill but they still were able to get me money to help me for my suffering! God bless them!

Experience a serious Uber or Lyft car accident in California?

Check out our Uber Accident Page to learn more about how the process works.

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After an injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including Uber self-driving accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.

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