The Rise of Self-Driving Cars

Technology has played a huge role in the development of our society. We are where we are today, because of the rise of technology. About two decades ago, people were introduced to the Internet, computers, and wrapping their minds around having portable phones. Today, technology has taken a more advanced turn. We are now experiencing an “intelligent-assistant” boom, whether its Siri on iPhones, robots replacing people’s jobs, or even self-driving cars. As technology rises, a new set of legal ramifications come along as well.

As of recently, self-driving cars have been introduced to the world. It is obvious that the idea of a self-driving car would scare some people. Many questions arise out of this latest invention. Can people trust that this self-driving car will get them from point A to point B? How reliable is the self-driving cars? Most importantly, are self-driving cars safe?

This is where the law and technology intertwine. The legal issue is presented when we have to figure out who takes on the responsibility if something goes wrong.

Although the thought of not being in control does scare some people, there are positives to this new invention. Driverless cars could save lives, issues such as texting and driving or driving while under the influence could be eliminated if a person is not in control of their vehicle. Driverless cars may also allow those who do not have the means to obtain a license or drive, to now have the ability to drive. Even the technology that comes along with a driverless car proves to be beneficial, with sensors, computers, and back-up systems, some can argue that a car having these systems provide for more security and reliability.1

However, although an idea or an invention can prove to be beneficial for people and can prove to be an exciting idea, issues are always bound to happen. From a legal perspective, liability issues will occur and even the mere fact that we, as humans, are still not fully comfortable with robots or robotic objects taking control of our lives. Many people carry the perspective that if they are in control of the car, they can avoid accidents and/or avoid mistakes. Can people really come to trust a robot? The issues of who to sue and where to place the blame – the car manufacturer, the other driver, etc. – will arise. This is where a brilliant idea can easily get clouded by the negative aspects. Future vehicles that are developed through the use of computer systems will usher in a new transition the legal world will have to face.

According to the American Bar Association, driving has proven to be a dangerous activity in general.2 Around 1.2 million people are killed every year and due mostly to traffic accidents.3 The positives about self-driving cars is that they don’t fall asleep, they don’t get drunk, and they don’t get distracted like a human driver would.4 So beyond the fact that people may be slow to accept this idea and although every new invention comes with legal issues, self-driving cars may actually be the next best thing.

  1. Claire Cane Miller, When Driverless Cars Break the Law, N.Y. Times (May 13, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/upshot/when-driverless-cars-break-the-law.html
  2. See Are We There Yet? The Legal Aspects Of Driverless Cars, American Bar Association (October 2015), http://www.americanbar.org/publications/youraba/2015/october-2015/are-we-there-yet–the- 2 legal-aspects-of-driverless-cars.html
  3. Id.
  4. Id.

Author: Shefali Kotta

Currently a rising 2L. Interested in Intellectual Property and Tax Law. Before Law School, Shefali worked for the New York City Government for close to two years doing public relations. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2013 with a B.A in Political Science and a minor concentration in Environmental Policies, Institutions, and Behavior. In my spare time, Shefali likes to read and travel.