Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution
You just never know how one thing can lead to another. After my Texas Lawyer article on self-driving cars was published, a producer from the Legal Talk Network called and invited me to appear on a podcast of the show Lawyer 2 Lawyer, discussing legal issues with autonomous vehicles.
I taped the episode on February 18, and you can listen to it here. I enjoyed chatting with my co-panelists, John Weaver and Todd Berg, although 30 minutes is not enough time to discuss this topic in depth! Rob, I wanted to work in your FAA comment. 😉 We can continue the discussion here! What do you think, race fans? Self-driving school buses? Do we need something analogous to the FAA to regulate self-driving cars? Are you ready to give up the wheel? And the accelerator? And the brake pedal??
“We have plenty of adults who act like 12 year olds, and they’re allowed to drive…” Amen to that!
It was so cool to hear your voice! And there was so much to think about in the podcast.
I had thought about the deer jumping in front of the car issue (because it happens a lot around here) but hadn’t considered the school bus issue. Wow! That’s a test scenario I hadn’t considered. And the “operator” liability issue. And the giving-birth situation. And the hacking issue.
It would make the most sense to advance the technology slowly, in stages. We already have cruise control; we could easily implement an autonomous lateral steering capability which would allow the car to follow the road using sensors and GPS+map info, with sonar/radar for collision avoidance. These are already in use on airplanes. We now have cars which can parallel-park themselves using sensor data; we have airplanes which can perform complete takeoff and landing maneuvers using ILS microwave signals. It’s reasonable to assume that cars will soon be able to enter and exit any parking spaces and enter traffic autonomously as well, using similar technology.
But sensors fail and signals can be lost, and owners can be lousy at keeping up with required maintenance, so the cars must have the capability of graceful degradation. Which implies they must be constantly checking their own health to ensure they are capable of autonomous operation, and disabling those systems which are no longer functional. Which also implies that all cars will maintain system logs which will be used as evidence in court in the case that an accident occurs. Like the (in)famous airplane Black Boxes.
I read that the autonomous vehicles being developed in Detroit had black boxes installed, not only for the engineers to debug systemic issues, but also because it was expected they would be required by law. After hearing (years ago) how people were furious to discover that car rental companies had installed velocity recorders, I wonder how the public will respond to the notion of having full-on “flight data recorders” in their cars. Especially since, just like in airplanes, all internal audio would be recorded so investigators could determine who was issuing commands to the car at the time of the accident, and could thus be held responsible for the car’s actions.
This is just fascinating! Thanks for letting me geek out.
You should have a blog, Rob!