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Self-driving cars put HB2813 to the test

Waymo, self-driving cars, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Phoenix, Fennemore, traffic laws

In this file photo, the Waymo driverless car is displayed during a Google event in San Francisco. An influx of Waymo self-driving cars arrived on Phoenix roads recently with the Waymo One Trusted Tester program, creating a major test for House Bill 2813.

An influx of Waymo self-driving cars hit Phoenix roads recently with its Waymo One Trusted Tester program creating a significant test for House Bill 2813. Signed into law last year, HB2813 regulates fully self-driving cars in Arizona, including post-accident conduct by the self-driving vehicle system.

The Waymo self-driving car program recently went fully driverless and will allow those Phoenix residents signed up to be a “trusted tester” to ride completely solo in Waymo’s electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles, for a fee.

With more self-driving cars on our roads, we are in new territory when it comes to determining fault during accidents and properly protecting ourselves.

What type of information are self-driving vehicles required to provide to help with the fault determination? 

Waymo, driverless vehicles, self-driving, accidents, Arizona, insurance

Marc Lamber

HB2813 defines a self-driving car as a driver for purposes of compliance with Arizona traffic laws. The automatic driving system must satisfy all physical acts required by a human driver. A self-driving car must stop at the scene until the duty to give information and assistance is satisfied if there is an accident resulting in injury, death or property damage. The self-driving car must contact law enforcement to report the accident and provide the owner’s name, address and registration number to the person struck or the occupants of a vehicle involved in an accident.

If an accident happens involving a self-driving car on a public road or involves a hospital-treated injury, a fatality, a vehicle tow-away or a pedestrian or the airbags deploy, then National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires the motor vehicle manufacturer to submit an incident report within 24 hours.

What type of insurance can passengers in self-driving cars and occupants of other vehicles in an accident with a self-driving car carry to protect themselves? 

In Arizona, insurance follows the car. Arizona traffic laws treat the self-driving vehicle system as the “driver” requiring that driver to register the vehicle and carry at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident of liability insurance. Passengers in self-driving cars and occupants of other vehicles who may be involved in an accident would be wise to carry and to have the right monetary limit for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If the self-driving vehicle is not at fault and the other driver is uninsured, the other driver/passengers in both vehicles could look to their uninsured motorist coverage for compensation. If the self-driving car is at fault and only carries the minimum levels of liability insurance, a victim may not be fully compensated unless they carry sufficient underinsured motorist coverage to  supplement other available coverage. The self-driving car manufacturer would be on the hook for its own negligence, but it will likely be easier to proceed directly against automobile insurance, including uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, than directly against the manufacturer. Because this is all new, we should expect some twists and turns.

Who gets sued? 

This will vary case by case, but it is fair to assume victims will look to the owner of the self-driving car, the manufacturer, the developer of the self-driving software and related technology defendants who may be responsible.

Marc Lamber is a trial attorney and public safety advocate, and a director at Fennemore Craig. Lamber chairs the Personal Injury Practice Group.



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