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Self-Driving Cars Aren’t Here Yet--But Their Parts Are

Publication Date: 
September 24, 2013
The Fiscal Times - Life + Money
Adam Skolnick

Stanford Law Fellow Bryant Walker Smith weighs in on the implications of self-driving cars in an article by The Fiscal Times' Adam Skolnick.  

Self-driving cars – the stuff of science fiction for decades – will be here within the decade, but several of their key features are already on sale in today’s new vehicles.

For instance: General Motors’ Range Adapted Cruise Control (latest edition) takes the car from 70 mph to zero without any help from the driver. Park Assist allows cars to self-parallel park, and already exists in many Ford and GM models.


Bryant Walker Smith, a research fellow at the Stanford Law and Engineering schools, isn’t as certain. “Nobody knows how safe these vehicles are, how safe they need to be, and how you go about measuring and demonstrating that.”

He agrees that human error is responsible for 30,000 traffic fatalities and accidents that injure over a million people each year. “But even if self-driving cars are ten times better than that, people are still going to be upset.” It could also be a legal nightmare for manufacturers and insurers. “I don’t think anyone should bet against technology,” says Smith, “but it will be gradual.”