Self-Driving Cars are Already in Chandler. But What are the Risks to You?


This little corner of Arizona was just described by Wired as the “self-driving capital of the world.” Waymo’s cars are puttering around the suburb’s roadways while the company plans its stake in the delivery world, driverless. This is not news to anyone in the area since Chandler became a testing area in 2017, and it has been a pretty good deal for the company. We have no rain, no snow, and little to no legislation about who can test self-driving cars in the state.


However, the self-driving technology is new and experimental, with slow rollouts and a level of unpredictability that does not favor governmental legislation. A woman was killed by a self-driving car in Tempe back in March, and now people are reported to be slashing tires and throwing rocks at the little white vans out of frustration. With all the uncertainty and miles to go before complete autonomy, understanding your rights can get confusing. The attorneys of Wattel & York are here to clarify.


How Does the Department of Transportation Approve Driverless Cars?


Governor Ducey issued a new executive order this year making it clear that robocars do not need a driver behind the wheel. “Drivers” of self-driving cars, however, must submit a statement to the DOT declaring the following:


  • The car follows and is capable of complying with all state laws and regulations
  • The car will “achieve a minimal risk condition” if it breaks down.
  • The person operating the car may be issued a ticket, citation or another penalty if he or she breaks the law.
  • The car is properly insured, licensed and registered with the state.


If a person or company fails to submit a written statement declaring they can abide by those rules, the ADOT can issue a cease and desist order. If you have been in an accident involving an autonomous car and have reason to believe one of the following rules was broken, reach out to the attorneys at Wattel & York immediately.


Who is at Fault in the Event of an Accident?


Liability depends on the type of accident in question. The City of Chandler has declared that if something is done illegally while the car is in manual mode, the safety driver will be ticketed. If the car is driving autonomously, then Waymo will get the traffic citation. However, there is no way for the police to hold the safety driver accountable and must take his or her word. Plus, once the cars become fully autonomous and no longer require a safety driver, there will not be anyone to hand over a license.


So far, there have been very few accidents reported in Chandler, most likely because most of the vehicles are not yet fully autonomous. Waymo also announced a major milestone back in October: Its cars around the U.S. have collectively driven 10 million miles. The company says that the next 10 million miles will be dedicated to its safety-first algorithms and working on everyday driving maneuvers, like merging.


Is There a Safety Protocol?


Along with his executive order, Governor Ducey ordered the Department of Public Safety to create a protocol for how all law enforcement officials should behave in the event of an accident. While it does not appear that the department has created official protocols yet, Waymo released its own set of guidelines. It includes how to safely pry open a car after a crash, and how to deactivate the cars if a passenger needs help. There is also a 24-hour hotline number for emergency responders to call, along with a Live Help button on the ceiling of the car so they can talk to a trained specialist. Waymo is also making corporate changes to reinforce its dedication to safety. Last month, the company introduced its first Chief Safety Officer, Deborah Hersman, who will focus on designing and enhancing public safety across their testing and development programs.


With over 60 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Wattel & York fight aggressively to meet your every legal need. More than 95% of our clients have been offered more money than originally presented by insurance companies. If you have been in an auto accident, contact us online for a free consultation or call our Phoenix, Arizona offices at 877-572-4143.