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How Google Got States To Legalize Driverless Cars

Publication Date: 
May 29, 2014
The Washington Post - Technology (AP)
Justin Pritchard

Center for Internet and Society Fellow Bryant Walker Smith weighs in on the legal complications of releasing self-driving cars to the public for The Washington Post. 

About four years ago, the Google team trying to develop cars driven by computers — not people — concluded that sooner than later, the technology would be ready for the masses. There was one big problem: No state had even considered whether driverless cars should be legal.

And yet this week, Google said it wants to give Californians access to a small fleet of prototypes it will make without a steering wheel or pedals.


Bryant Walker Smith, who teaches the law of self-driving cars as a fellow at Stanford University, described one rule-drafting session where Google — not the DMV — responded to suggestions from auto industry representatives.

“It wasn’t always clear who was leading,” Smith said. It seemed to him that both Google and the DMV felt ownership of the rules.