When Google unveiled the prototype for a self-driving car last year, the science-fiction-like vehicle was received with mixed reviews with both sides weighing in on how this technology could affect our daily lives in the future.
Although many people have hailed it as the answer to reducing the number of car accidents nationwide, many critics aren't so sure, pointing out that these new cars could present more problems than answers.
All of rules and laws about driving-from who pays for a speeding ticket to who is held liable in the event of an accident-rely solely on whether there is a human being behind the wheel. But if self-driving cars become the wave of the future, many people bring up the all important question: who's held responsible if no one's driving the car?
States like California and Nevada have already seen heavy lobbying and campaign contributions which have helped pushed laws through the state legislature like a breeze. California has already enacted laws that legalize self-driving cars with a 37-0 senate vote in favor. But with technology speeding ahead of us, many legal experts point out that laws right now are not equipped for the legal ramifications of self-driving cars.
A Stanford Law School report asks, how involved will the occupant of a vehicle have to be while the car is in motion? Will they have to remain vigilant with their hands on the wheel at all times? Will they be allowed to move freely around the vehicle? Questions such as this will likely lead into other more serious concerns about texting and the consumption of alcohol behind the wheel; if a person isn't operating the vehicle, are obviously negligent behaviors that can cause serious car accidents still considered illegal?
All of these questions and more will need to be taken into consideration before car makers push forward with this new technology. More importantly though, auto makers will need to make sure that they work closely with lawmakers to make sure that drivers are held responsible for not only their actions, but the actions of their cars as well.
Source: Time Magazine, "Will Self-Driving Cars Changes the Rules of the Road?" Adam Cohen, Jan. 14, 2013