What is an Autonomous Vehicle?

Aug 25, 2017

We all get excited about future technology. However, while Colorado residents might anticipate the day when driverless cars will be widely available, that day might not come as quickly as they hope. Several issues must first be addressed before self-driving cars can be available in mass production. Other factors, such as high upfront costs, may also make people less willing to purchase these vehicles when they are first available.

Here, we’re taking a closer look at autonomous vehicles to understand this new technology better. We also highlight some of the risks and barriers that will inherently come with this new type of vehicle. While driverless cars may seem like the inevitable and exciting future of transportation, it’s important to also understand the risks.

At The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm, we’ve grown a specialized team of personal injury attorneys who are experienced in various personal injury practice areas, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and truck accidents. We also know how important it is to adapt to new technologies, which will inevitably alter legislation, regulations, and insurance practices. This, in part, is why we believe it’s so important to prepare for the future of driving—however it may appear in the days to come.


According to TWI Global, autonomous vehicles, also known as driverless cars, can operate without human intervention or action. Autonomous vehicles are designed to sense their surroundings and respond accordingly, as a human driver would on any road.

The technology behind autonomous vehicles is still a work in progress. While no fully autonomous vehicles are currently on the roads, partially autonomous ones are being developed and tested. Companies like Uber and Waymo (associated with Google) are leading the way in producing driverless vehicles. Autonomous cars are classified on a five-level scale that dictates their level of autonomy. Level 1 cars, for example, only have autonomous features, like cruise control or braking, while level 5 cars will eventually be completely autonomous in every driving scenario.


The risk of car accidents is one of the greatest factors to overcome before autonomous vehicles become widely available. However, many additional risks come with introducing autonomous vehicles that could delay their widespread adoption. Here are some important risks to consider with driverless cars:

1. Unregulated industry.

Like any new industry, an initial period with new regulations (or simply the lack of complete regulations) may cause issues. For example, when a driverless car gets into an accident, who’s responsible? The driver? The manufacturer? These legal issues will need to be hammered out over time.

2. Autonomous and traditional vehicles.

There is bound to overlap for a certain amount of time when autonomous and traditional, manual vehicles are sharing the road. This will create new driving situations, inevitably leading to risks for even the most experienced drivers. Driver’s education courses and safe driving rules will have to be overhauled and reimagined to account for driverless vehicles.

3. Hacking and computer malfunctions.

Whether purposeful (hacking) or unintended (computer malfunctions), there’s a high risk of new equipment and technology going awry when autonomous vehicles are introduced to the general public. This will greatly increase the potential for dangerous auto accidents that are completely out of control for those inside the vehicle. Manufacturers must develop extremely sophisticated (and safe) technology before self-driving cars can become available to the public.


Before driverless cars can be released to the general public, state and federal lawmakers, along with regulatory agencies, will first need to draft new laws and regulations to specifically address and govern these new vehicles. The process of drafting and passing these new laws and rules could easily take years. There are also thorny issues of liability that will need to be determined, including the party (or parties) that could be held financially and legally responsible if a self-driving car is at fault in a car accident. This may also change what type of insurance individual drivers will need.

Generally, consumers are only willing to pay set amounts for technological advancements. If driverless cars have higher prices, consumers will likely stick with traditional vehicles. This has been demonstrated in the early years of electric vehicles. Even though electric cars may save consumers money over the vehicle’s lifetime, fewer consumers purchase them due to the higher upfront costs.


Even in the future of driverless vehicles, car accidents may still happen. In addition to a transition period where self-driving cars share the roads with traditional vehicles, widespread car accidents may also be caused by defects in the equipment, software hacks, and adverse weather conditions.

When people are the victims of car accidents that are not their fault, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to assist them. Car accident attorneys may work to determine which parties should be held financially responsible (fully or partially) and then help victims recover damages in amounts that will equate to fair compensation.

Whether it’s a manual or self-driving car, being involved in an auto accident can be a frightening, confusing, and stressful experience. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, don’t hesitate to Call Paul at 303-333-7285 anytime. Contact our Denver Law Firm or visit our website for more information to see if we can provide you with the guidance and help you deserve.

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm | Website | + posts

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm is a team of personal injury attorneys in Denver, CO serving victims of car, truck and motorcycle accidents. Each of our lawyers is licensed with the Colorado State Bar (CBA) and specialize in injury law.

We've recovered tens of millions of dollars in personal injury settlements and verdicts for our clients. For 13+ years we've helped thousands of people get back on their feet after experiencing serious injuries. We will take your case to trial and get the maximum settlement possible.

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