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blog home Car Accidents Self-driving cars in Virginia are closer than you think. Here’s what you need to know.

Self-driving cars in Virginia are closer than you think. Here’s what you need to know.

By John Singleton on March 1, 2021

Self-driving cars may sound like science fiction, but in Virginia, they are already a reality. Over the past decade, auto manufacturers and tech companies have moved into the Commonwealth to develop futuristic cars. In fact, Fairfax County has its own self-driving shuttle service, and researchers are testing self-driving technologies every day at Virginia Tech.

While these cars are designed to reduce car crashes, many people are concerned. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys are here to answer your questions about the future of self-driving cars and the safety of our roads.

Are self-driving cars allowed in Virginia?

Virginia currently has no laws against using a self-driving car, but most cars are still in testing. There are only a handful of “self-driving cars” Virginia drivers can purchase, and these cars still require drivers to pay attention to the road and keep their hands on the wheel. Given the high price of these vehicles, most drivers do not have the option of using a self-driving car just yet.

Residents and visitors to Fairfax can ride the county’s first self-driving shuttle, Rally, between the Mosaic District and Dunn Loring Metro rail stations. This is the only public self-driving service in Virginia, but the Commonwealth hopes to expand it if it is successful.

Where are self-driving cars being tested?

Self-driving cars are also being tested on Northern Virginia roads and on a few public roads in Blacksburg, but the majority of manufacturers are using the Virginia Automated Corridors.

The Virginia Automated Corridors are a handful of private roads and testing facilities where government agencies, car manufacturers, and researchers can safely test self-driving vehicles without putting everyday drivers in danger. These areas include:

  • Northern Virginia Highways and Arterials
  • The Town of Blacksburg, home to Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Smart Roads
  • The Virginia International Raceway

While manufacturers can test self-driving cars on public roads, these tests are largely limited to Blacksburg, where they have access to Virginia Smart Roads, one of the most specialized testing facilities in the world.

Are self-driving cars insured?

All vehicles in Virginia must have liability insurance before they can be on the road (or the owner has to pay an uninsured driver fee to the DMV). The same laws apply to self-driving cars, whether they are in the testing phase or road-ready.

So, if you are injured by a self-driving vehicle, you likely can pursue a personal injury claim to receive compensation for your injuries.

Are self-driving cars safe?

Talk of self-driving cars may bring to mind sci-fi films like Minority Report or I-Robot, so it is important to remember that these new vehicles are still in testing. That being said, these vehicles are using advanced technology made by some of the world’s top engineers. Researchers and government agencies are dedicated to making these vehicles as safe as possible.

It’s also important to remember that 94% of all car accidents are due to human error, so the goal of self-driving cars is to reduce that number. While most of us are not ready to trust a computer to control our cars, these vehicles will have new safety features and capabilities that may prevent serious accidents, including:

  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Forward warning systems that notify drivers if they are too close to the car in front of them
  • Advanced cruise control
  • Adaptive headlights that turn with the car to help drivers see around curves
  • Lane departure warnings that notify drivers when they are drifting between lanes
  • Rear-view cameras to help drivers back in and out of parking spaces
  • Blind-spot detection to warn drivers if it’s unsafe to change lanes
  • 911 notification, which calls the police when a collision is sensed
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, or the ability for cars to “talk” to each other and adjust their speed to local traffic patterns

What should I do if I am in an accident with a self-driving car?

Accidents with self-driving cars are rare, but when they happen, you can know how to respond. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys have six important steps for you:

  1. Remember, safety first: No matter what type of accident you’re in, your first priority is to make sure you and your passengers are safe. If you can, pull over to the side of the road, check on your passengers, and do not leave your vehicle if it’s unsafe to do so.
  2. Call 911: Report the accident to the police as soon as possible. Dispatchers can send local officers and paramedics to check on you and make sure you get medical attention.
  3. Get the vehicle’s information: Self-driving cars currently must have drivers in the vehicle who must legally provide you with their insurance information. But if you’re seriously injured and need to get to the emergency room right away, the police can get the vehicle’s information for you and include it in their accident report.
  4. Take photos and videos: Some police officers may take photos of the accident, but in case they don’t, take photos of the road, your vehicle, and the other car (or ask one of your passengers to do so). An experienced attorney can review these photos to determine how your accident happened and to support your case. Also take photos of the at-fault vehicle in case you need to file a claim against the manufacturer.
  5. Get medical attention: Even if you believe your injuries are minor, see a doctor as soon as possible. The adrenaline of a crash can hide serious injuries, such as brain damage and spinal problems. If you don’t see a doctor quickly, you could suffer a more serious injury. We understand that you may be worried about paying the medical bills, but know that there are several free clinics around Virginia you can visit, and most hospitals will place your bills on lien until you receive compensation in an insurance claim.
  6. Contact a lawyer: While you may want to file your claim as quickly as possible, speaking to an insurance company before contacting an attorney is a mistake. Insurance companies may devalue your injuries and offer low settlements. If you work with an attorney, you may be able to recover full compensation for the costs of your injuries.

Who can I talk to about my accident?

At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, as car accident lawyers, we will sit down with you in a free consultation and explain all your options after your accident. If your injuries were caused by another driver, we will explain how we can file a claim against their insurance company. We give every client a no-fee guarantee, meaning you don’t pay us unless we win your case.

We at GibsonSingleton believe in serving our neighbors in Virginia, and we work to prevent injuries from happening by sharing safety information whenever we can. But when a serious accident happens, we consider it a calling to help those who are hurt.

Both my partner, Ken Gibson, and I are experienced Virginia injury attorneys who know firsthand how traumatic a car wreck can be, because we have both been in one ourselves. You can read about our experiences and the lessons we learned in our free book. If we sound like the right team for you, call us at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 to talk about what happened to you and what your best options are.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.