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Europe Demands Driverless Cars Be Driveable

Publication Date: 
May 31, 2014
Ars Technica
Chris Baraniuk

Center for Internet and Society fellow Bryant Walker Smith comments on how differing state laws could complicate the spread of driverless vehicles for Ars Technica. 

The latest in a long line of breezy promotional videos from Google has landed. This time, it was the company's self-driving vehicle project that took centre stage. Although the car's dinky, bubble-like design was mocked by some, its announcement has also been widely understood to signal the fact that autonomous vehicles are now entering the next level of testing and development.

Google's cars will, for now, be limited to trials in the Palo Alto firm's home state of California. So what about driverless transportation in Europe? Is the EU ready to embrace this technology, or is it about to be left in the wake of another American innovation?


Bryant Walker Smith, a Fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, has written a string of blog posts on the legal and regulatory headaches facing the roll-out of driverless vehicles in the US. Regarding the advanced state of certain European projects, Smith wholeheartedly agrees with Koren.

For one thing, America's state-by-state law varies dramatically. Smith points out for example that Michigan law does not currently allow for general consumer use of self-driving cars and that no state has fully determined how existing traffic laws should apply to autonomous vehicles.

"In contrast the European Union has looked at automation much more broadly in the context of economic development and mobility," Smith notes, "and when you're thinking about it in those terms suddenly these vehicles make a whole lot more sense."