Driverless Cars -are you ready for autonomy?

There is a process of technology creep underway. Its’ arrival has profound impact on many aspects of daily life and the significance and ramifications are equally vital to appreciate.
An example is the rapid development of the driverless car. You can’t have escaped the increasing media coverage of the technology. It’s almost the realm of science fiction – but it’s here – and one thing is clear, it will become a part of our future. 2021 is the year industry thinks that vehicle autonomy will arrive in earnest.

Whether it’s the increasing use of driverless functions in Tesla cars, or Apples self-driving car, or Google’s prototype, it is clear major technical effort is being deployed to make it reality.

The development is consistent with perhaps the two biggest technology revolutions underway – electrification and autonomy.

In many ways the dawn of autonomy has parallels with the genealogy of the Internet generally. The Internet has always been – and is – similarly disruptive. Each new application of the Internet usually meant that someone paid a price and the disrupters were not the wholesale jerseys established industry. Whether it was the impact on the music industry, followed by the movie business, the first reaction to the technology was negative. Those were commercial interests at stake. so too -self-drive cars are being pioneered by technology companies rather than established manufacturers.

Driverless cars potentially will change the vehicle manufacturing industry – which is why some major car companies are acquiring technology with a view to future introduction of self-drive cars.

However, the difference with self-driving vehicles is that they won’t just disrupt an industry – they place into jeopardy human safety itself.

Even the testing of self-driving cars presents legal challenges. They will eventually have to be tested real word on public roads and not just in virtual or carefully controlled environments. Inevitably there is risk to the public – and so how such testing is conducted needs to be carefully considered.

Driving a car uses a multitude of human skills. It is complex when you unpack all that is involved – even at modest speeds. Most accidents though are caused by driver error – and so any improvement must be good. But whether the technology constitutes an improvement will require extremely high standards of performance and reliability for the public to feel they are at risk of a driverless vehicle operating autonomously. Setting those technical standards will have to regulated so that issues of liability can be addressed. Such standards don’t currently exist but they will be critical to the legal environment for self-drive cars. Ultimately the car manufacturer will be legally liable in the event of a system failure.

It may well be that the whole concept of legal ownership changes in the future as it relates to cars. Cars may not be subject to private ownership but increasingly fleets of driverless vehicles will navigate cities -and be available for use by anyone. Change in ownership means a change in liability and insurance. But even in the nearer term – any autonomous system – however deployed – will at a stroke introduce complexity in liability. It may be easy using the inherent black box technology to establish whether the system was active – but would there be circumstance of an accident which reasonably demanded the emergency intervention and seizing of control by the driver – and if not rendered – might the driver remain liable wholesale jersey China – or at the very least contributory negligent? Such forensic examination of the circumstances would be hard when it likely any accident occurrence would be triggered rapidly with little opportunity for manual intervention.

Questions arise as to whether the system controlling the self-drive function could be interfered with – hacked. Again, the robustness of the system – and the defined security standards – must become a regulated issue.

The legal issues don’t’ end there. In this data driven world – there are likely to be personal data issues – which in the UK is heavily regulated. If vehicles were made available on a driverless fleet basis – there would have to be collection of personal data when the individual used the vehicle. That data would certainly be used in accident examination – but in wholesale mlb jersey China what other circumstance and uses would such data be exploited – and how would such additional use be made known to the driver. It is unlikely detailed terms and conditions will be read before use. There would have to be a structure for the explanation of how personal data is used and opportunity for the individual to confirm consent.

What all the above shows is what has been the case with almost all technical development – certainly in the internet context. That is – it becomes technically possible to do cheap jersey China something and the temptation is therefore to roll out that technology. But just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should or will be done. The technology doesn’t exist in a legal vacuum. It is subject to real world legal governance. Those real world legal controls have often stifled innovative technology (for sound consumer protection reasons).

It’s well to reflect that given the current rate of new car production it will take at least 20 years for all cars in this country to carry autonomous functionality – but the important thing is it will commence soon – and vehicle autonomy will become reality and subject to everyday use. There is much to do – not merely technically, but socially and legally before this technology can be safely deployed.

Andrew Sparrow
Founder, Lecote Solicitors

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