Maine Car Accident Watch: Self-Driving Tech Coming to Portland

Self-driving technology is coming to Portland, Maine’s largest city. With it, residents may see an uptick in Maine auto accidents.

A Washington State company called Inrix announced it plans to test its self-driving automotive technology on the streets of Portland.  Inrix is a global company that develops and deploys Internet services and mobile applications for road-traffic and driving uses. The software platform, called AV Road Rules, is intended to function as a guide for self-driving cars, by allowing vehicles to “see” road conditions such as one-way streets, crosswalks and school zones. Portland will focus initial mapping on Commercial Street and Franklin Street, heavily used transportation corridors into the Old Port and downtown Portland.

The complexities of today’s modern vehicles — from airbags to anti-lock brakes to early-warning systems and backup cameras, are already making an impact in the courtroom when it comes to personal injury and wrongful death litigation. A recent column in the Press Herald highlighted just a few of the questions being raised by such emerging technologies.

“Who will be liable for injury or death?” Columnist Mark Barnette asked.

Who, indeed.

Our Portland car accident lawyers continue to follow cases involving companies like Apple, Google, Uber and Tesla. The rapidly evolving technology will undoubtedly complicate future injury lawsuits. Product liability claims against software or auto manufacturers are already revealing some of the liability waivers, limited liability corporations, and other legal tactics company’s are using to defend against the inevitable litigation.

Barnette also took the city to task for poor bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, questioning how self-driving technology will be able to compensate for fading crosswalks and snow-covered streets. He contends there is a long, unsafe track record of deploying such technology and that self-driving cars are likely a generation or more away. In that assertion he is perhaps half right. While there have been several high-profile incidents involving self-driving cars, which have been deployed on the streets of Michigan and California for several years, there is no sign the incidents have slowed the rapidly deploying technology and most industry experts expect autonomous vehicles to become commonplace on the nation’s roads within the next decade.

Aside from the obvious profit motives of these corporations, the primary reason deployment of such technology will likely go unstopped is that many of the nation’s leading safety advocates believe it will soon be safer than human drivers.

Drivers cause accidents. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports 94 percent of the nation’s automobile accidents (19 in 20) are caused by driver error. Vehicle component error is responsible in about 2 percent of cases. Top causes were “recognition error,” “decision error,” and “performance error.” For the most part, self-driving technology is performing remarkably well in tests. When the technology does get into trouble, it has usually been because of unusual traffic conditions (bad weather, road construction, approaching emergency vehicles, etc.) or because of unanticipated actions taken by other drivers.

So, while deployment of such technology will have its challenges, it will likely be nowhere near as challenging as protecting the motoring public from bad drivers.

If you’ve been injured, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources
Portland selected as a testing ground for self-driving car technology, July 17, 2018, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries
Maine School Injury Case Results in Partial Summary Judgment, Aug. 9, 2018, Peter Thompson & Associates


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