Driverless-car chasing

by Walter Olson on September 13, 2013

The driverless car, it’s increasingly clear, is a technology with transformative potential, and among its key advantages would be its promise in reducing accident rates. Yet without attention to liability reform the progress could stall, according to Megan McArdle. “Even if the overall number of accidents drops, the number of accidents where the automaker is perceived to be at fault will approach 100 percent.” Would a massive, New Zealand-style effort to replace the whole tort system do better? [Bloomberg; more on New Zealand no-fault compensation here, here; the original 1967 Woodhouse report here]


1 Robert Fahey 09.13.13 at 9:33 am

Staged pedestrian accidents are rampant in some countries. You stop at a red light and some clown jumps on your hood and pretends to be injured. Can you imagine the scamming that people will try with driverless cars?

2 Walter Olson 09.13.13 at 9:45 am

Driverless cars will come well equipped with video cameras, however, which should help fend off some of those false claims. See recent post:

3 Igor 09.13.13 at 11:43 am

Sorry, I am a computer professional and a Machine Design engineer, and *I* wouldn’t trust driving to anything other than the Mark I human brain and Mark I eyeball (as flawed as they are). Too many variables happening too fast, and the software needs to be vetted – thoroughly!
In a “controlled” environment? Sure.

4 gasman 09.13.13 at 12:55 pm

See the earlier post on blind gun enthusiasts. Perhaps the machine design crew could work on something that would work for the NRA. It is well established mantra that guns don’t kill people, so autonomous guns should get the same deference and zealous support of the NRA.
Would a Mark I human packing manual heat ever feel safe again when surrounded by a hundred fully autonomous weapons wielded by the blind, infirm, and mentally deficient?

5 prior probability 09.13.13 at 3:04 pm

The new zealand approach makes a lot sense, and would be far superior to the current tort system, but how could implement such a radical reform in a federal system? Does Congress’s commerce power reach that far?

6 DensityDuck 09.13.13 at 7:44 pm

“*I* wouldn’t trust driving to anything other than the Mark I human brain and Mark I eyeball ”

So you control the valve timing yourself, then, with some kind of knob arrangement? I mean, you wouldn’t trust control of a complex mechanical system to something as silly as a little flanged piece of metal, would you?

7 Warren Vita 09.13.13 at 7:49 pm

In a federal system I’d think each state would have to legalize driverless cars and perhaps amend their tort system so that manufacturers would actually sell them. Anyone making driverless cars would be foolish to sell them into an environment where they have unlimited liability for every accident.

8 Bill Poser 09.15.13 at 9:39 pm

I wonder how law enforcement will work with driverless cars. Who is responsible for moving violations? What does the police officer do when he or she pulls over a driverless car? What about equipment violations like a burned out tail light?

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