Articles Posted in Uber/Lyft Accidents

The belief that self-driving cars will eventually make our roadways safer is widely held, but the recent surge of autonomous vehicle (AV) crashes is causing serious concern. Is it too early for AVs to be on the roads? And what is causing all of these crashes? Although most accidents have been minor, there are exceptions, including the self-driving Uber that hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

The less “sensational” crashes may not make national news, but reports showing all AV crashes—even minor fender benders—are particularly alarming. They are happening with relative frequency…and most involve rear-end collisions. Take the state of California, for example. In the month of September alone, three AVs were rear-ended and three were sideswiped. Most AV developers do their road testing in California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan, but California is the only state that requires AV companies to report detailed information about their testing. Since 2014, California has recorded at least 104 collisions involving AVs. Of those, a whopping 49 occurred in 2018.

Critics warn that getting to a point where AVs can basically eliminate the country’s annual 40,000 roadway fatalities may take decades, and current testing programs are akin to a public experiment in AI to which public participants haven’t willingly signed on. Considering that possible outcomes include serious injury or death, concern is understandable. According to research into recent accident patterns, experts have concluded that AVs drive in ways that may be unexpected by the human drivers with whom they share the road. A MA auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Rear-End Collisions and AVs—Who’s at Fault?

Analyzing the data found in nationwide reports, researchers have concluded that rear-end accidents account for approximately two-thirds of all AV accidents. Why all the rear-end collisions? And doesn’t that mean they’re the fault of the human driver who hits the AV from behind? Although most states hold that rear-end accidents are the fault of the driver who hits the other vehicle from behind (and there is no denying that today’s human drivers are more distracted than ever), many experts believe that the AVs are at least partially to blame.

Of the 28 rear-end accidents reported involving self-driving cars in California last year, 22 occurred when the vehicle was in full autonomous mode. Such statistics lead experts to believe that AVs simply must be doing something that increases the likelihood of being involved in a rear-end collision. Although autonomous vehicles may make take the “path of least resistance” (i.e. make an illegal left-turn to avoid mowing down a pedestrian), they don’t always drive in a way that human drivers expect. Which may be the biggest problem faced by AV developers, and the general public.

People Expect People to Break Rules

Kyle Vogt, cofounder and CEO at Cruise believes the reports coming out of California paint a very clear picture—humans expect other humans to break traffic rules when behind the wheel (i.e. speeding up at a yellow light or driving over the speed limit), but AVs don’t bend the rules.

“We’re not going to make vehicles that break laws just to do things like a human would,” says Vogt. “If drivers are aware of the fact that AVs are being lawful, and that’s fundamentally a good thing because it’s going to lead to safer roads, then I think there may be a better interaction between humans and AVs.” A Boston auto accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

It’s going to be a long time until AVs are universally safe on American roadways. In the meantime, awareness is key. The public would benefit immensely from knowing how self-driving technology works, how—and where—it is being tested, and how AVs behave. Labeling AVs in similar fashion to driver’s education vehicles could be one way to help human drivers adapt to their artificially-intelligent counterparts. Continue reading

Ride-hailing app Uber has recently launched a testing program for autonomous vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto, among other areas. But the company pulled its fleet of self-driving cars immediately following a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night. Although a 2016 accident involving a partially-autonomous Tesla resulted in a man’s death, this most recent tragedy was the first to involve a fully-autonomous vehicle. If approved, Uber’s fleet is intended to fully replace human drivers.

As 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg walked her bike across a Tempe street on Sunday night, she was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber SUV. Although 44-year-old Uber test driver Rafael Vasquez was in the driver seat at the time of the crash, the vehicle was in self-driving mode.

“The vehicle involved is one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles,” said Tempe police in a statement earlier this week. “It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel.” A Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft allow individuals to essentially become freelance taxi drivers using their own vehicle. The popularity of these services, which give people the ability to hail a ride using a mobile app, has skyrocketed in recent years. So too have accidents. Statistically speaking, ride-sharing services are quite safe. The increase in accidents is not due to lack of safety, rather it’s a simple numbers game – there are significantly more Uber and Lyft drivers on the road today than in years’ past.

There is a lot of debate over whether ride-sharing services make the streets safer or more dangerous. A study conducted in 2016 revealed that services like Uber and Lyft reduced arrests for drunk driving, and overall fatal traffic accidents. But an American Journal of Epidemiology study concluded that “the deployment of Uber services in a given metropolitan county had no association with the number of subsequent traffic fatalities.”

Multiple Parties

Claims involving ride-sharing accidents are often vastly different from typical motor vehicle accident cases. They often involve complex legal issues due to the multiple parties involved: passenger, driver, and the ride-sharing company. If you’re injured in an Uber accident, for example, do you file a claim against Uber, the driver, or both? And what about the insurance? Do you need to deal with Uber’s commercial insurance policy, the driver’s personal policy, or both? A Boston auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident.

Who is Liable?

The question of who pays what is made particularly complex due to the independent contractor relationship between Uber and Lyft drivers and their employer. Ride share companies often use this arrangement as a defense to liability when one of their drivers is involved in an accident.

Fortunately, auto insurance carriers are beginning to create solutions to this problem in the form of specialized policies. But the gray area is still quite large. For example, new ride-share insurance policies typically kick in when the driver accepts the request for a ride and begins driving to the pick-up location. When the driver isn’t working, the personal insurance policy takes over.

But what if the driver switches on the app, making herself available before she has a passenger  or is en route to a pick-up location?  In this situation, ride-share policies generally do not apply. Neither, however, do most personal policies. If she switches on the app, she is technically working, and commercial use of the vehicle isn’t covered by most personal auto insurance policies.

Due to the constantly-evolving nature of ride-share services, the gray area of liability in ride-share accidents doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In many Uber and Lyft accident cases, a portion of the claim is paid by the driver’s personal insurance policy and the remaining damages are paid by the commercial policies of Uber or Lyft. Of course, the companies’ claims adjusters are skilled at negotiating what they will pay, and commercial policies often have a $100,000 max per accident. As such, it is essential to have an experienced MA motor vehicle accident attorney by your side if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident. Continue reading

Although all drivers are at risk for motor vehicle accidents, drivers for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft seem to be disproportionately prone to accidents, even as they face other challenges.

For starters, working shifts for Uber and Lyft drivers can be excessively long, sometimes lasting all day and going late into the night. Add to that the constant stress of  rush hour deadlines, customer satisfaction, and navigating Boston traffic from customer to customer, and you have the perfect recipe for distraction.

Are Uber and Lyft Bad for the Driver?

When an Uber or Lyft driver has an accident, safety isn’t the only concern. Their source of income is also on the line.  When a ride-sharing driver is no longer able to work due to on-the-job injuries, lost wages and an onslaught of medical bills can financially destroy the driver.

Ride-sharing drivers often live under the pretense that Uber or Lyft will protect them if an accident prevents them from working. But, this is simply not true. They are independent contractors, not employees.

With the rise of ride-share apps, there has been a rise in accidents. A Boston personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been involved in an Uber or Lyft auto accident.

Are Uber and Lyft Bad for the Passenger?

Uber and Lyft drivers need to submit a background check before transporting their first customer. If the background check reveals a criminal history or bad driving record, they won’t be approved to drive for the company. But this doesn’t automatically mean that Uber and Lyft contractors are good drivers, or even good people. From fatal collisions to assault and rape, Uber and Lyft drivers have been linked to multiple acts of negligence and criminal behaviors. A MA auto accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident.

Common Causes of Uber and Lyft Accidents

As with any motor vehicle accident, Uber and Lyft accidents can occur at any time, and for any reason. But the most common causes of these accidents include:

  • Lack of sleep: Uber and Lyft drivers often work excessively-long shifts, seven days a week. Such long hours can cause fatigue, which may result in a lack of the concentration needed to operate a vehicle. On a positive note, however, Uber has recently added a rule that drivers cannot put in more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period. The ride-share company is also sending alerts to drivers to take breaks and rest. Even so, a 12-hour work day can result in a fatigued driver.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance: If the vehicle has maintenance issues that could cause an accident, and the driver knows it, he or she could be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages. Maintenance issues may include improperly inflated or bald tires, a cracked windshield, faulty brakes, and worn out brake pads.
  • Negligent drivers: Careless or distracted drivers also cause Uber and Lyft Poor driving behaviors, such as speeding and aggressive driving, have been linked to multiple Uber and Lyft accidents.
  • Drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs: Although not as common, there have been reports of Uber and Lyft drivers who have transported customers while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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Driverless cars will likely be the main mode of transportation in the future, but that future may be a bit more distant than expected. A self-driving taxi pilot project in Las Vegas ended with less-than-desirable results last week. After only a few hours of shuttling people around the city, the driverless van collided with a delivery truck as it was backing into an alley to make a delivery. According to the initial investigation, the human driver did something that the robot car couldn’t have anticipated.

Last Wednesday, the pod-like shuttle was on day one of offering complimentary rides around a small loop in Vegas. No one was injured in the collision, but it is cause for concern. It also brings to light a glaring issue that designers of driverless vehicles have yet to figure out – how can self-driving vehicles effectively interact with those driven by humans?

“This is exactly the kind of real-world scenario that this pilot is attempting to learn from,” said John Moreno, AAA spokesman. “This is one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet, and it’s just now learning how to interact with humans and human driving.”

Robots Don’t Understand Nonverbal Communication

The reality is, humans use nonverbal communication signals when driving every day. The truck, which was backing up when it shouldn’t have been, collided into the driverless pod stopped behind it. Had a human been driving the pod, he or she would have likely given in to the truck’s nonverbal request to “get out of my way,” by backing up. Had there not been another vehicle behind the pod, it may have done the same. However, the pod appeared to freeze in place, unable to determine how to react – can’t move forward, can’t back up.

According to a reporter who was on board at the time of the incident, a human would have probably responded differently. “We had about 20 feet of empty street behind us (I looked) and most human drivers would have thrown the car into reverse and used some of that space to get away from the truck,” wrote Jeff Zurschmeide, a reporter for Digitaltrends.com. “Or at least leaned on the horn and made our presence harder to miss. The shuttle didn’t have those responses in its program.”

Police arrived at the scene, issuing a ticket to the truck driver.

The purpose the the AAA-sponsored pilot program is to expose riders to driverless technology and determine how these vehicles perform in real-world situations. There is a human operator on board during the pilot rides, but the incident simply happened too quickly for the operator to react. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

The Las Vegas pilot project incident isn’t the first crash involving a driverless car. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized Tesla Inc.’s semi-autonomous systems in September, referencing a fatal 2016 accident involving the Tesla Model S. The Model S allows the driver to go “hands-free” for an extended period. Basically, it can steer itself. Unfortunately, a driver in Florida was killed when his Model S, which was steering itself at the time, crashed into a truck. NTSB ruled that, although the human drivers were the main cause of the accident, the autopilot design was a contributing factor.

This recent self-driving accident in Las Vegas shows the difficulties that driverless vehicles have when it comes to nonverbal communication. This type of communication occurs with great frequency between human drivers every day. The truck driver may not have seen the pod, but it’s more likely that he expected it to move.

“He probably had an expectation that the shuttle would back off and allow him to do his thing,” said Duke University robotics professor Missy Cummings. “Obviously that doesn’t work. There wasn’t the logic inside this little shuttle to anticipate this.” A MA auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

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