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Automatic driving technology and older drivers: a brief look at two issues

Most of us have heard, read, or perhaps participated in, discussions about the incredible benefits increased driving automation could potentially bring in terms of highway safety. These benefits are largely due to the fact that a large number of automobile accidents are caused by driver error of some sort. Automobile automation could largely eliminate such accidents once it becomes mainstreamed.

A recent New York Times article highlights this issue as it relates to older drivers. As the author points out, increased automobile automation is now allowing more and more older drivers to get behind the wheel who would otherwise be unable to because of concerns about age-related driving performance. This raises a couple issues. 

First of all, unless and until automatic driving technology becomes completely automatic, it will not be able to prevent all driver-related errors. Most of the features allowing older drivers to stay out on the road longer nowadays are technologies which have to be used properly, with a correct understanding of their limitations, to be beneficial. Drivers who fail to exercise reasonable care in using automatic driving features can be held responsible for accidents they cause as a result.

Secondly, as automatic driving technology increases, it will be increasingly important for manufacturers to ensure consumers are fully informed about the use of these technologies and that they understand the limitations and risks involved. Manufacturers who fail to provide adequate instructions and warnings, or who engage in misleading advertising about automatic driving technologies, can end up bearing some of the burden of liability for accidents attributable to technology failure.

For those who have been injured in a car accident in which automatic driving technology is alleged to be at play, it is important to work with experienced legal counsel to build the strongest possible case against those responsible for the crash, including both drivers and manufacturers. 

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