The driverless car is here. It will roll out in fleets of automated taxi cabs and solve problems of traffic, fuel, car ownership in ways we haven’t even talked about yet.
But first I want to point out one very important person. This person is critical to the future of the driverless car. They are a hero. I’m not sure if it is a man or a woman. He or she may even be alive today – but not for too much longer. I think a name is appropriate even though we haven’t met. Let’s call them Marty, how about Marty McFly. Marty is the first person to be killed by a driverless vehicle. This is a sad but inevitable occurrence. We don’t yet know the circumstance, but the liability precedent that will be established will have huge repercussions.
There is some very thoughtful discussion on the Abnormal Use blog causing software developers to contemplate scenarios that are usually only brought up in moral philosophy thought exercises. Might there be a time when a robot driver might be forced to make a calculated decision between hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle? In the event of an accident, is the driver responsible or the software maker?
It brings another potential meaning to the blue screen of death.
The good news is that every single crash will be documented in excruciating detail. The black box of a car will show exactly what person and vehicle was moving at what speed, and down to the millisecond what the light was doing. The car will likely be obeying the speed limit by a well specified margin. Any instance of negligence will likely be painful obvious from the reams of data.
My suspicion is that the legal framework will look alot like that of other common carriers like taxis, buses, delivery vehicles etc. People do die in bus accidents unfortunately, but this hasn’t stopped the existence of busses.