The Implications of Self-Driving Vehicles

Self-Driving VehiclesWhat Do I Get Out of It?

For those willing to take advantage of the perks a self-driving vehicle has to offer, many would hope that they require little attention from the person in the driver’s seat, or the back-up driver.

What kind of perks do self-driving vehicles have to offer for workers on the job who would otherwise be a backup driver?

  • Multitasking
  • Self-productivity through doing additional work, such as checking e-mails or preparing for an upcoming presentation.
  • Eating
  • Catching up on rest
  • Saving time in general on things that would have been done on your own time[1]

What Does My Boss Get Out of It?

What potential advantages does this emerging market have for employers who employ drivers and would like to incorporate self-driving cars and trucks into their fleets?

  • Reducing injury among workforces
  • Reducing workers’ compensation claims
  • Lowering workers’ compensation costs through reducing damaged equipment, injuries, etc.[2]
  • Reducing turnover
  • Higher employee morale
  • More employee productivity[3]
  • Improving the bottom line

Computers Make Mistakes, Too

Self-driving cars do not rely on human error, and will, on a mass-scale, be more safety reliable. Training employees on the usage of new technologies would be beneficial. It is important to note, however, that this new technology is not prone to fault. Computer systems can produce error, such as when an autonomous Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian, the user of which was eventually charged.[4]

If a person could be charged for a fatal accident that a self-driving car did not stop, how likely is it that people will want to use autonomous cars? No one wants to be held responsible for the error of computer machinery. The popularity of these vehicles in the future will be partially determinative on how the law treats accidents using these vehicles.

Implications on Workers’ Compensation

It is speculative to determine whether an accident caused by a fault in software in self-driving vehicles could be covered under workers’ compensation. One may argue that it is still the worker’s responsibility to prevent an accident even though they are not driving the vehicle. However, according to N.J.S.A. 34:15-1, if the error was due to negligence by the employer in employer-provided vehicles, such as lack of maintaining the vehicle along with inspections, then the possibility is higher.[5] Or, blame could be due to the manufacturer, in which case the employer may still be negligent. Vehicles are often recalled when there is a safety or usage concern that the manufacturer overlooked, which could apply to self-driving software.

[1] DuChene, Courtney. “Self-Driving Cars Will Vastly Reduce WC Injuries – If We Can Just Get People to Use Them.” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 21 Aug. 2019, riskandinsurance.com/self-driving-cars-reduce-wc-injuries/.

[2] Ergui, Alana. “’Braking’ New Ground – Autonomous Vehicles & Workers Compensation.” NCCI, NCCI Holdings, Inc., 25 July 2019, www.ncci.com/Articles/Pages/Insights-Autonomous-Vehicles-WC.aspx.

[3] Brock, Ray. “How to Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs: 3 Proven Strategies.” Insperity, Insperity, 12 Feb. 2019, www.insperity.com/blog/workers-compensation-insurance-cost/.

[4] Conger, Kate. “Driver Charged in Uber’s Fatal 2018 Autonomous Car Crash.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 15 Sept. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/technology/uber-autonomous-crash-driver-charged.html.

[5] “2009 New Jersey Code :: TITLE 34 – LABOR AND WORKMEN’S COMPENSATION :: 34:15 :: 34:15-1 – Employees’ Right to Recover for Negligent Injury;  Willful Negligence as Defense;  Jury Question.” Justia Law, Justia, law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2009/title-34/34-15/34-15-1/.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.