What’s coming in dispute resolution and claims processing involving high-tech car accidents?

I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for the parties involved in high-tech, sensor-dense, autonomous car accidents.  Compound my wonder with new drivers whose training did not include winter road conditions.  Car dashboards are pretty with all those control lights but I wonder if they instill overconfidence.

(Autonomous cars – cars that drive themselves.  You just sit there and monitor the sensors)

How bad is it?  A friend drives a five year old Honda Accord that has sensors to indicate how close he is to an object when backing up.  We tested and the sensor incorrectly indicated he was about twice as far from my car as measured – 0.5 metres compared to an actual 0.25 metres.

Those sensors from a lower-tech age are quite simple.  What about others designed to keep you from drifting over the line and into the next lane?  The sensing cameras work well when you can see the lines but what about when the lines are covered with snow or dirt?  What about that distracting, warning Ping! Ping! when you’re trying to avoid potholes or drive just off the noisy track worn in the pavement over the years?

What about those braking sensors when you get too close to the car in front?  I’m scared to think what happens when they malfunction..

We’re in high-tech transition and accidents will happen like they did when air bags and seat belts first came out.  They’re reliable now but they weren’t at the start.  I wonder about the reliability of the sensors on today’s high-tech cars..

I thought these questions during a recent meeting of CATAIR, the Canadian Association of Technical Accident Investigators and Reconstructionists.  CATAIR is an association of serving and former police officers, consulting professional engineers and others who figure out how motor vehicle accidents happen.

We got together a few days ago in Moncton, New Brunswick.  We were there for a regular meeting with an agenda that included identifying training courses for the national meeting in Halifax in August, also for a talk by Ed. Goodfellow on drugs and driving.  Ed is Chairman of CATAIR for the Atlantic Region.

CATAIR arranges courses for its members on the reconstruction of traffic accidents.  New courses are sought or developed, or existing courses refined for reconstruction involving high-tech car accidents.  There is a learning curve associated with the refined methods.

I also believe time must pass and data collected to optimize the accuracy of the methods.  The methods are somewhat empirical – based on testing and experience   They rely for their increasing accuracy on test data from investigations – data that is still coming in.  The test data is used to refine the methods.

Some of the technology on new cars is quite advanced so the data for refining accident reconstruction methods must be limited to some extent, like that for airbags and seat belts at the start.

I can’t help but wonder about the increasingly complex disputes and claims that are surely resulting as cars add more sensors.  And the questions that might be raised about the accuracy of the expert’s methods.


  1. Reade, M. W. (Mike) and Becker, T. L. (Tony), Fundamentals of Pedestrian/Cyclist Traffic Crash Reconstruction, Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM), Jacksonville, FL 2016
  2. Civil litigation, forensic engineering and motor vehicle accident reconstruction.  Published September 22, 2015
  3. Is your traffic accident investigator well trained, experienced and “accredited”?  Published February 23, 2016
  4. “Seeing is believing” at a meeting of traffic accident investigators.  Published March 4, 2016
  5. If you  can measure it you can manage it, even if it’s a real mess like a car or truck accident.  Published June 23,, 2016
  6. Forensic assessment of traffic accidents.  Published October 26, 2016


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