At the beginning of 2018, the prospect of having self-driving cars on Southern California roads  appeared to be a foregone conclusion. The only questions surrounded how soon and how many vehicles would be jockeying for position in traffic on I-405, I-10 and other busy highways.

Also contributing to the swath of optimism was the fact that Tesla was primed to introduce the Model 3, the first “affordable” offering from the zero-emission automaker. The Model 3 would join its popular luxury models, the Tesla Model X and Model S. The popular “auto pilot” function would be an available option on the Model 3, and consumers were lining up to put deposits down on the upcoming car.

However, things may have changed since a fatal accident occurred in Northern California involving a Tesla. After a Model X careened into a center divider at highway speed, questions abound as to what caused the accident.

One theory is that the driver may have continually ignored the “place hands on steering wheel” prompt that tells the vehicle that a human driver is still in control of the vehicle in case of an emergency. Because of this, the driver may have had some difficulty regaining control of the vehicle, thus preventing him from avoiding the center divider.

Indeed, this notion is only speculation, but it exemplifies the vastly different positions people can take and how liability (or the denial of it) can arise after a car accident. Suffice it to say, it remains to be seen whether the accident will lead to a products liability lawsuit.

In the meantime, self-driving functions are not to the level that allow drivers to be behind the wheel without paying attention.

The preceding is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.