The Legal Status of Autonomous Vehicles in Wisconsin

Self-driving or autonomous vehicles come in all varieties from compact size to sport utility. Many Wisconsin drivers own some type of autonomous vehicle and have for years.

As self-driving cars become more popular and their driverless capabilities increase, federal and state governments must address how to regulate these vehicles.

legal status of autonomous vehicles in Wisconsin

The Legal Status of Autonomous Vehicles in Wisconsin

Autonomous vehicles currently share the same legal status as other motor vehicles in Wisconsin. The owner or operator of an autonomous vehicle is responsible for the appropriate and safe operation while driving. 

The driver of an autonomous or self-driving vehicle must be behind the wheel and in physical control of the vehicle at all times.

Different Levels of Autonomous Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorized autonomous vehicles into six levels of automation

These are as follows:

  • Level 0. The human driver does all the driving;
  • Level 1. An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can sometimes assist the human driver with either steering or braking/accelerating, but not both simultaneously;
  • Level 2. An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances. The human driver must monitor the driving environment at all times and perform the rest of the driving tasks;
  • Level 3. An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can perform all aspects of the driving task under some circumstances. In those circumstances, the human driver must be ready to take back control at any time when the ADS requests the human driver to do so. In all other circumstances, the human driver performs the driving task;
  • Level 4. An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment in certain circumstances. The human driver need not pay attention in those circumstances; and
  • Level 5. An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are passengers and need not be involved in driving.

Level 5 autonomous vehicles use a combination of AI software, LiDAR, and RADAR sensing technology to drive without human driver intervention.

Are Driverless Cars Safe?

According to a 2023 National Law Review article, driverless cars average 9.1 accidents per million miles driven compared to 4.1 accidents per million miles driven in regular vehicles. However, the injuries in driverless cars are less severe.

Autonomous cars may average more accidents because they give the human driver a false sense of confidence or security. A human driver may rely too heavily on the self-driving capability of the car and allow themselves to be distracted.

While human drivers are cautioned to be ready to take over their vehicle’s automated systems at any time, they may not react quickly enough to do so. A 2020 AAA study pointed out that autonomous acceleration systems with braking and steering, often disengage with little notice.

Other issues with self-driving vehicles include cyber-attacks, system failures, complex road and lane conditions, and rapidly changing weather.

Our Experienced Milwaukee Car Accident Team Can Help

Auto companies may be neglecting your safety in favor of technology and profits. If this is the case, they need to be held accountable. 

If you suffered injuries due to a malfunctioning car system or another driver’s reliance on their self-driving vehicle, contact the car accident attorneys at Mingo & Yankala, S.C. Our law firm is highly-experienced in investigating and collecting evidence in complex car accident cases.

Reach out to Mingo & Yankala, S.C., to schedule your complimentary car accident consultation. There is no risk to speak with one of our skilled Milwaukee legal team.