Posts Tagged ‘Law’

Robot Cars and the Law

Friday, December 28th, 2012

As I often say about innovation, the technical problems are nothing compared to the pinhead legal problems. Verge has a good article up sorting through some of the legal and treaty issues (yes, treaty issues) involved in automated robotic cars. It’s definitely worth your time.

However…

The article seems unduly pessimistic to me. These are things that can be worked out — we have entire armies of lawyers in this country who stand to make millions getting everything sorted into legal precedent. And if these things prove to be safe — and I think they will — the economic pressure to work out the legal issues will be fierce.

The one thing that bothered me about the article was this:

The Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) requires that drivers “shall at all times be able to control their vehicles,” and provisions against reckless driving usually require “the conscious and intentional operation of a motor vehicle.” Some of that is simple semantics, but other concerns are harder to dismiss. After a crash, drivers are legally obligated to stop and help the injured — a difficult task if there’s no one in the car.

As a result, most experts predict drivers will be legally required to have a person in the car at all times, ready to take over if the automatic system fails. If they’re right, the self-parking car may never be legal.

Did you see the subtext? The subtext is that if I’m in a crash with an automated car, there is no one around to render assistance to me.

Well, maybe. Bleeding out while unconscious or seriously injured would be a risk (although it’s not like pedestrians and bystanders are going to disappear). But being in a collision with a robot would have some advantages over being in one with a human:

  • One of the lessons taught in driver’s education is how to avoid accidents or, if unavoidable, minimize the damage (e.g., rear-ending someone instead of swerving into traffic or pedestrians). Robots can be made to optimize this much better than human beings.
  • A robot can not be knocked unconscious and can call for help. Even if its CPU were destroyed, it can be on a network that will recognize the dropout and call for assistance to the last known location.
  • An automated car will maintain an extremely detailed and objective record of the accident, making fault easy to determine.
  • An automated car will not get out and try to help injured passengers, true. But this isn’t always a good thing. It’s not unheard for helpful bystanders to drag people with spinal injuries into para- or quadriplegia because of an irrational fear that the car will burst into flames.
  • Developing safety and reporting methods for automated cars will massively improve the ability of driven cars to avoid accidents, minimize damage and call for help.
  • Robot cars are coming, one way or another. As powerful as the legal pinheads are, the force of progress is simply too strong.

    Beach Linkorama

    Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
  • Color video of Hiroshima.
  • Once again, we can rest easy because a bias was mistaken for data.
  • You can sue for anything these days.
  • Oops. Looks like anti-oxidants are a myth. I swear: one day we’re going to open the paper and find that scientists have declared that greasy burgers and fries are the best meal for your health.
  • Friday Linkorama

    Friday, July 1st, 2011
  • All of these are insane (and possibly fictional).
  • All of these are awesome.
  • This is incredible.
  • This is a scary story. Man beats snot out of prostitute, claims he was sleep-walking, court buys it. It’s scary either way. Either he got away with a violent assault or he was capable of carrying one out when he was asleep (which experts say can happen extremely rarely). Automatism freaks me out something major.