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The 12 Most Important Questions About Self-Driving Cars

Publication Date: 
October 01, 2013
Popular Mechanics
Andrew Del-Colle

Andrew Del Colle's article in Popular Mechanics quotes CIS Lecturer Bryant Walker Smith on how legislation may have to adapt to semi-autonomous vehicles.

As soon as I hit the small black lane-centering button, I can feel the wheel stiffen in my hands. Suddenly the light bar atop it begins glowing a soft green, signaling that the car has taken over the task of steering. I had already surrendered control of the acceleration and braking to the vehicle's adaptive cruise control, and now with my feet flat on the floor, I slowly unwrap my fingers and release the wheel. Sitting in the passenger seat is Jeremy Salinger, who works on General Motors' semiautonomous car program. He's seen the car do this dozens, possibly hundreds, of times, but, if only to reassure me, he states the obvious: The car is in control now.


Bryant Walker Smith is a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School and the Center for Automotive Research. He points out that along with creating new laws, we will also need to review our existing laws as semiautonomous systems proliferate. "New York state, for example, requires drivers to keep one hand on the wheel at all times," Smith says. "Figure how that reconciles with Super Cruise." He goes on: "Regardless of what the traffic codes, what the vehicle codes specifically say, when a crash happens, how will judges and juries decide what behavior was negligent? So even if you're in a state that doesn't expressly say you have to have your hands on the wheel, will not having your hands on the wheel, will not paying attention, be considered negligent?"