Tesla sees an accident before it happens

We've reported on problems, so-called self-driving cars create out on the roads. Now, we have examples where these rapidly-improving technologies  actually work.

As years go by, newer, safer driver assist technologies, built into new cars, will seriously reduce car-related deaths and injuries.  

From a forward-mounted camera in a Tesla, this now viral video shows the Tesla's automatic braking system seeing a situation developing into a collision  The Tesla stopped well short, as drivers of other cars to the right passed by before they could stop.

There are also media reports that some German officials now believe that a similar system, required in newer European trucks, probably reduced the number of people killed in the Berlin Christmas market attack, because the truck stopped after 250 feet.  

These events may hasten the day all new vehicles have such systems before U.S. law mandates them five years from now. San Francisco personal injury attorney Haig Harris, says juries may force it. Sometimes, juries reject an auto maker defense that meeting current Federal Motor Vehicle Auto Safety Standards, let's them off the hook.

"We argue that if the technology is available, then that technology ought to be integrated into the vehicle to make it safe," said Mr. Harris. Automatic braking is already installed in some models by as many as ten automakers, mostly from Asia and Europe.

Harris, says car makers sometimes accept the cost of lawsuits over the cost of improved safety systems. "It's usually negligible per item," said Haris. In the past, juries have assessed huge damage awards against the car makers, for not having readily available safety devices onboard. "Sometimes standards follow that jury verdict where the jury says, " look, the technology was there.  You should have incorporated that into your vehicles to make it safe," said Mr. Harris.

Big verdicts hurt the auto maker's bottom line as well as the vehicle's reputation and future sales.

That will often force automakers to install the devices well before a Federal standard is mandated.