Self-Driving Cars

One of my students is writing a paper about the legal implications of self-driving cars, such as the prototype developed by Google.  There are many interesting questions that flow from this technology, which will probably be the standard in cars by the time I’m old.

Here’s one example.  Suppose a self-driving car gets into an accident with a car driven by a person.  Would this be a res ipsa loquitur situation with respect to the driven car owner’s liability?  Obviously, that depends on the error rate of the self-driving cars as compared to human error, but it raises a bigger issue.  Is driving an art that involves making inferences about what other cars and drivers will do, or is it a science that relates to speed and distance where a computer is vastly superior?  How, for instance, will self-driving cars handle 4-way stops?

I’ll continue the futurist thread tomorrow with more on 3-D printing.

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5 Responses

  1. TGP says:

    4 way stops seem like a very easy problem since the first person to the stop will get the right of way. easily solved by computers. The problem will be responding to abnormal situations that programmers have a very hard time anticipating.

  2. Aaron says:

    I’m interested in how self-driving cars will impact the insurance industry. We’re at the forefront of the telematics boom, where insurance companies are adjusting premiums based upon individual driving characteristics (i.e. speed, hard braking, etc.).

    It’s interesting that at a time when the insurance industry is embracing technology to evaluate individual driving performance, car companies are looking for ways to take the individual driver out of the equation.

  3. Joe says:

    This might be a good companion piece to Dorf on Law’s discussion of a current movie about a companion robot.

  4. Deven Desai says:

    Check Ryan Calo’s work on this area. Also Bryant Walker-Smith at Stanford’s CIS.