Can You be Charged of Reckless Driving in a Self-Driving Car?

Google Self-driving car

A new development that’s coming along very quickly in the United States is self- driving cars. Virginia is going to have the first batch self driving cars being tested on actual roadways on Interstate 95 and 295, and some other roads in the Northern Virginia area, which could include Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania.

The question then becomes, can you be charged with reckless driving if your self- driving car does something against the law?

This is certainly an unexplored territory in the law, at least in Virginia, and will be interesting to see how judges react to claims such as my car made me do it.

We already have vehicles that have all sorts of lane assists and sophisticated cruise control systems and it will be interesting to see how those situations actually play out in court. But the self-driving cars are fairly unique and that they do all the work.

My conclusion is that judges will find you guilty of reckless driving as long as you were behind the wheel and had some ability to take control of the vehicle. At least for starters, until the laws are changed significantly, the ultimate responsibility will fall on the human operator no matter what the computer has done. Even if the computer did make you do it, the judge is going to ultimately hold you responsible.

What this means for self-driving cars and even sophisticated vehicles of lane assist features and sophisticated cruise control, is that you need to make sure that you’re always in control of the vehicle no matter what the features it may have. If it has features that take control away from you, that you’re not comfortable with, you should consider seeing if there’s a way to disable them.


Photo by: Google Self-Driving Car

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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