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What Are the Common Defects in Self-Driving Cars?

Self-driving cars were once a futuristic development of science fiction movies. In 2023, they are very real – and on the cusp of taking over the roadways. The hope is that self-driving cars will reduce accidents and make travel safer.

To give you an idea, it’s estimated that nearly 95 percent of auto accidents are due to human error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While the idea of turning road travel over to robots sounds great on paper, the realities of putting human lives completely in the hands of an automated machine have many concerns. The biggest is with defects.

In this post, we want to discuss a few of the most common defects found in self-driving cars today. Let’s get moving.

Software Glitches and Bugs

Self-driving cars are controlled by complex software systems that power the vehicle’s functionalities. Any malfunctions within the software can cause the vehicle to drive erratically – which can lead to injury or worse.

Software defects are more common than many assume in self-driving cars. In February 2022, Tesla recalled over 54,000 cars and SUVs due to the self-driving software causing the vehicles to roll through stop signs. This defect affected Tesla models from 2016 through 2022.

Software issues are arguably the biggest concern with self-driving cars. For automated vehicles to become the norm, there cannot be ANY problems with the software.

Sensor Defects

Self-driving cars use sensors to navigate their surroundings.

They gather data from these sensors, which are then fed into the software system to control the vehicle’s functions. Any errors within these sensors can cause the vehicle to make incorrect decisions – which can lead to accidents.

Currently, one of the biggest issues with sensors deals with cleanliness in certain environments. For instance, the buildup of debris in winter climates can impact the sensor’s performance.

There was one scenario during the testing period of a Hyundai Sonata in Michigan where the sensor would be rendered useless due to slush buildup. The driver would have to stop and clean the sensors periodically. The driver elected to simply turn off the self-driving feature due to this issue.

Communication Lapses

In addition to sensors, self-driving cars generally rely on communication with other vehicles and infrastructure to navigate the roadways safely. If there are communication failures, it can cause the car to make incorrect decisions.

Cars can share data on road conditions, traffic, and potential hazards to avoid accidents and improve efficiency.

For example, if a car does not receive information about a traffic jam up ahead, it may continue driving at normal speeds and cause an accident. Similarly, if a car fails to communicate with traffic signals or other infrastructure, it may not be able to navigate intersections safely.

To minimize the risk of communication failures, self-driving cars rely on a combination of technologies, including GPS, radar, lidar, and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. These technologies work together to provide a comprehensive view of the car’s environment and enable it to make informed decisions.

Cybersecurity Failures

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities are a big concern for self-driving cars.

Autonomous vehicles rely on a complex network of hardware and software systems that can be vulnerable to hacking and other cyber threats. Hackers could potentially gain control of a self-driving car and manipulate its behavior, putting passengers and other road users at risk.

Some potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in self-driving cars include:

  1. Unauthorized access
  2. Data theft
  3. Malware
  4. GPS spoofing

To address these potential vulnerabilities, self-driving car manufacturers and developers are investing heavily in cybersecurity measures, including encryption, intrusion detection systems, and network segmentation.

Additionally, government agencies are working to develop regulations and standards for self-driving car cybersecurity to ensure that these vehicles are secure for all road users.

What To Do If Your Self-Driving Car is Defective

Defects in an autonomous vehicle’s systems can be extremely dangerous to all drivers on the road. If there are ANY signs of defective software – or any other components of the vehicle – you need to get it inspected ASAP.

If the manufacturer is unable to repair the defect(s), the law is on your side.

Lemon law – the Moss-Magnuson Consumer Warranty Act – holds automakers accountable for selling defective products. While lemon law exists across the United States, each state has unique qualifications for a lemon vehicle.

As a California lemon law attorney, we can explain which criteria vehicles purchased or leased in the Golden State must meet to be eligible for legal benefits:

  • The self-driving vehicle was covered under the manufacturer or dealership warranty when the defect was first reported to the automaker; and
  • The defect is substantial in that it impairs the safety, functionality, or value of the vehicle; and
  • The defect was not caused by human error, neglect, or abuse; and
  • The manufacturer’s repair technicians have been given a reasonable number of attempts to fix the defect(s); or
  • The vehicle has been out of service for 30 or more cumulative days for warranty-covered repairs.

Be sure to check your state’s lemon law requirements to understand if you qualify for benefits.

The Wrap

The technology of self-driving vehicles is constantly evolving. For these vehicles to become the standard mode of transportation, there can be little to no risks involved.

If you’re an early adopter of self-driving vehicles, it’s important to be aware of the potential problems you might run into. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the industry’s biggest challenges – and provided some insight into what to do if your vehicle is malfunctioning.


Author Bio: Brian K. Cline’s Lemon Law Legal Group provides premier legal services. Our California lemon law lawyers aggressively and ethically force vehicle manufacturers to buy back defective and dangerous vehicles. Our team includes experienced trial lawyers with over 40 years of combined trial experience.