If automated braking in my car caused an accident, could I hold the manufacturer liable?

What would be the legal situation if automated braking caused an accident? Could the car manufacturer be considered to be a third party in the claim? They have, after all, installed a software system that doesn't appear to have received sufficient testing. Whilst a driver clearly has a responsibility, this appears to be a system over which they have little or no control. Whilst the intentions appear to be laudable, it does appear impractical in use.

Asked on 15 April 2021 by William

Answered by Georgia Petrie
Firstly, seeing as this, to my knowledge, hasn't yet happened — we don't know. There's no precedent yet been set to see what the legal ramifications of such an incident would be. I highly, highly doubt you could consider a manufacturer as a third party on a claim, though. You'd have to take them to court, and that's another question entirely.

Secondly, we don't advise safety systems are switched off. They're there for a reason and the Euro NCAP safety ratings are heavily based on safety systems. In fact, the Dacia Sandero Stepway and Logan models just received a lowly 2 out of 5-star safety rating due to a radar-only automated emergency braking (AEB) system — which would not detect pedestrians or cyclists that crossed in front of the car (though it would detect other vehicles). In 2018, the EU Commission ruled that autonomous emergency braking will be mandatory on all new cars from 2021. This also applies to the UK.

Lastly, are there cons as well as pros? Certainly. Avoiding car crashes or lessening the severity of the impact for an inevitable one is a big plus. However, there is the potential for error. A false positive may slam on the brakes unnecessarily. Another arguable AEB con is that it could lull drivers into complacency. If they know their car might stop automatically, why bother paying attention as closely? Some drivers prefer to be in full control so most vehicles equipped with active safety and driver-assist systems like AEB allow them to be turned off. Some allow a degree of personalisation, too, like changing how sensitive AEB is, when and how it activates, and how far ahead it looks for obstacles.
Tags: safety
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