Last week’s symposium on the legal issues of autonomous vehicles addressed many interesting issues. While the full range of the discussion will only be available to the public with the upcoming special issue of the Santa Clara Law Review (expected in May), here are some of the more interesting issues:
- If a driverless car drives a drunk person home, could the person be charged with drunk driving? This is by no means a trivial issue because all current autonomous cars allow switching between driverless and normal modes. In an accident doubts may be raised about who had control of the car. A similar problem arises for operating mobile phones while driving. The Nevada law on driverless cars includes an explicit provision for this case.
- The law changes introduced in Nevada and being considered in Florida and Hawai only address the legality of operating driverless cars in traffic. They don’t affect the key issue of liability.
- Will driverless cars be able to recognize a police officer and be able to understand their directions? How about roadside workers?
- How about privacy concerns about the travel data that’s collected by onboard computers
- Potentials for misuse because of hacking, obtaining remote control over the vehicle and failure because of high dependency on global positioning infrastructure.
Frank Douma, a transportation expert at the University of Minnesota, concluded: “There’s probably as much work to be done on regulations and cultural acceptance as there is on refining the technical or engineering obstacles to these things”