How Would the Driverless Car Affect Driving Laws?
In life-threatening scenarios where his mind is not 100% concentrated on his driving, who would then do the driving for him? This is probably the time to be thankful with today's technology as there are now cars that can be effectively operated with minimal input required from the driver, and that is through an automated car, or popularly known as the driverless car.
But with this remarkable automotive innovation, would this mean that a new law should be passed to legalize the use of a somewhat risky driverless car? Or should amendments on driving laws be made to adjust to automated car's efficient features? Here are some possible influences that driverless cars can bring in today's driving laws.
Issues on Commercialization
Issues on driving laws are sure to arise the very moment that driverless cars are put into commercial use. Some of the attorneys of California Department of Motor Vehicles raised the concern that most technologies incorporated on these automated cars are far beyond the laws instilled in most states, as most laws governing traffic cases are assumed to be under human operation.
This raised issue definitely makes a lot of sense, as this can pose some confusion in laying out what laws to be used in moments of traffic cases involving automated cars. According to New York Times, Technically, cars that drive themselves are not illegal, because there is no law that says cars must have driver. (https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/with-a-push-from-google-california-legalizes-driverless-cars/)
Legalization of Automated Cars
As the prime developer of driverless cars, Google is in hot pursuit to take necessary steps that would eventually legalize the use of these self-driving cars. According to another report of New York Times, Google says that it does not want to make cars, but instead work with suppliers and automakers to bring its technology to the market place. The company sees the project as an outgrowth of its core work in software and data management, and talks about re-imagining people's relationship with their automobiles. (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/automobiles/yes-driverless-cars-know-the-way-to-san-jose.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0).
With that said, it is indeed clear that Google has a fairly good point of wanting to commercialize the automated cars as it will not only advocate safe driving but will eventually encourage people to be more aware of the things involved in their automobiles. Obviously, Google's work has been paying off as there are some states today that have permitted the use of automated cars for road test, particularly Nevada, Florida and California. As a matter of fact, Governor Jerry Brown's signing of legislation to legalize driverless cars in the state of California made a divided reaction among his constituents.
Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington, sees this event as something beneficial, as California and the two other states' action can trigger law enforcement to make certain amendments on the current driving laws in order to put things into a much controlled scenario, in case other political bodies would legalize driverless cars in their states.
Calo, like Google, manufacturers, and research institutions, believes that legalization of driverless cars would settle down all the uncertainties surrounding this Google-innovated car and would eventually stop the entire unnecessary buzz around it. He stated on one of his interviews in the New York Times that, Because it is going to look strange to a sheriff driving by, and to remove uncertainty, what they want is a pronouncement that, yes, it is OK to be driving cars around here without a driver. (https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/with-a-push-from-google-california-legalizes-driverless-cars/)
Long Term Legal Vision
When looking through the capabilities of driverless cars on a wider perspective, one can really say that it might actually address issues on reckless driving and might even help minimize the increasing numbers of vehicular accidents.
But, technology does not always promise a perfect operation. In cases of a wreck, who is held responsible? Bryant Walker Smith, Stanford's automotive legal adviser, has an answer to this in his interview with NBC News. According to him, two legal ways can be done to address accidents involving automated cars. Either the driver will be held legally responsible just like for a normal car accident, or the responsibility is passed to the manufacturers. (https://www.nbcnews.com/technology/futureoftech/road-rage-driverless-cars-its-possible-84911)
Unfortunately, those two legal possibilities are not yet written, and until such time, driverless cars will remain to be free to hit the roads despite its poor driving law coverage.