Online grocery shopping is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sectors. By 2024, nearly 70 percent of grocery shopping will happen online. As a result, grocery delivery has become a major focus for the food and tech industries. Several companies in California have begun developing and using autonomous delivery robots. These machines are responsible for delivering groceries, retail, and other items such as dry cleaning to people’s homes.
According to some Bay Area businesses, the use of contactless, autonomous delivery robots has increased their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as autonomous delivery robots become more widespread, legal questions will arise. Who is responsible in the event of an accident? Can you hold an autonomous delivery robot liable? Attorney Braid Pezzaglia addresses this question and more in the following post.
Examples of Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Accidents
Along with grocery stores and retail stores, restaurants in California have begun using autonomous delivery vehicles. In nearby Mountain View, Starship Deliveries uses sidewalk delivery robots to deliver food and other retail items. Another robotics company, Nuro, recently received a permit by the State of California to test its vehicle on public roads. The vehicle is autonomous and passengerless, and it transports goods.
Additionally, companies like Postmates have started using robots to deliver food orders. Amazon has started using autonomous delivery robots to deliver packages. While we imagine that delivery robots will continue to evolve and become part of everyday life in San Jose and the surrounding areas, many people have also noticed the potential for serious accidents with these machines.
Examples of accidents involving autonomous delivery robots may include:
- Traffic accidents
- Intersection accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Accidents involving property damage
Causes of Autonomous Delivery Robot Accidents
There are many reasons why autonomous delivery vehicles could cause an accident. For example, they may have a defective sensor, an ineffective sensor, a low battery, a design flaw, not being properly maintained, or just have fallen into disrepair. They may be out of range or have a software glitch. They may misinterpret or be unable to reasonably react quickly to changing conditions. Computers crash, hang and even get hacked.
Additionally, there are many environmental factors that could make an autonomous delivery robot less readily observable to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Weather, lighting, landscaping, and even other foot or vehicle traffic may conceal the presence or movements of an inconspicuous robot.
Have you seen an autonomous delivery robot when walking or driving in the city? If so, then you should consult with an attorney if one injures you in an accident. An experienced car accident and products liability attorney will know how to apply the law to your case. Schedule a free consultation with one today.
Legal Questions Surrounding Autonomous Delivery Robots
As the usage of new technologies continues to develop, sometimes companies rush in their race to market or implement the latest ideas. Corners may be cut and safety concerns ignored or compromised. Cars, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles are typically not allowed to operate on city sidewalks. For a reason. Safety. Yet, this is where you will find robots operating for commercial benefit and financial profit.
Are motorized delivery robots required to comply with financial responsibility laws applicable to other motorized vehicles? Are they registered with the DMV? How will you even know who owns it, who is maintaining it, who is using it, and who requested its usage? What will a Police Report say? That the compartment was locked but the pizza sure smelled good? And, who will have ready access to any data recorded or obtained by the robot’s cameras and sensors, for how long will it be stored, by whom, and for what purpose?
As more businesses use autonomous delivery robots, accidents will inevitably occur. Injury victims may explore filing a lawsuit to recover damages for their injuries. In many cases, the court system would assign liability to the person or entity in control of the delivery robot. For example, liability for a car accident would likely belong to the company controlling or steering the delivery robot. Liability could also belong to the manufacturer or designer of the delivery robot. This may happen if a design flaw or manufacturing mishap caused the accident.
However, this operates under the assumption that the operation of the delivery robot is under human control. This may not always be the case. As technology advances, human interaction with delivery robots may become less and less. Because of this, the current liability framework in California may need some reworking. The more autonomous a robot becomes, the less the courts will view it as a tool of a human user. Many states are beginning to grapple with this. They are trying to determine how the law will evolve to account for accidents involving autonomous delivery robots.
Contact a San Jose Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer
Do you have autonomous delivery robots in your town? If you are hurt in an accident with one, then speak to attorney Braid Pezzaglia about your legal options. He has decades of experience handling a variety of personal injury cases. For a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Braid Pezzaglia today at (408) 650-8955. You can also send us a message through our online contact page. Our legal team will answer any questions that you may have about your case.