According to Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at Stanford's Center for the Internet and Society, automated vehicles have been "just 20-years away" since the 1930s. Lately, however, data giant, Google, and some of the OEMs have started taking the concept seriously.
So serious, in fact, that automated vehicles are now out there folks.
This has led Mr. Smith to publish a comprehensive study
on the legalities of automated vehicles. Smith concludes that, although automated vehicles are "probably" legal from the national regulatory prespective of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state laws will "complicate" the transition to automated vehicles.
Why automated vehicles anyway? Many motorists enjoy, at least to some extent, the driving process. Smith's answers are: safety and saved lives. If done correctly, there are also long-term cost savings embedded into the notion of automated vehicles; savings of fuel and time.
Smith's comprehensive study takes a detailed look at the three states [California, of course, Florida, and Nevada] that already have included "automated vehicle" provisions in their motor vehicle codes. The study even includes a comprehensive model bill for progressive state legislators to consider. Apparently, New Jersey, Arizona, Hawaii (?), Oklahoma, and the District of Colombia all have bills under active consideration.
One legal issue that comes to our simple mind over here at the Law Blogger is the actus reus [i.e. intentional bad act] requirement that a criminal law must contain to pass constitutional muster. While we do understand the philosophy behind the "implied consent" concept underpinning many provisions of a motor vehicle code, we are compelled to ask, can a human be cited for acts undertaken by a machine?
This could be a small town lawyer's dream. Imagine the cornucopia of defenses available for any potential automated motor vehicle code. And if the legislatures go the "strict liability" route, the deep thinking consitutional lawyers will be well-fed.
Also, we cannot forget the product liability inquiry of who is responsible when [not if] something goes wrong, and someone is injured or killed. Automated vehicles, if they proliferate, will produce a brand new branch of products liability tort law.
It will be interesting to see how far these fancy cars get along the respective legislative highways of the fifty states. One thing is for sure: the process has begun.
Labels: automated vehicle, California, Google, lawyer, motor vehicle code, strict liability, tort