Larry Downes: “The Right and Wrong Ways to Regulate Self-Driving Cars” (HBR)

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Harvard Business Review

Self-driving, autonomous vehicles — a topic of speculation, if not science fiction, just five years ago — are suddenly going mainstream. Before long, we’ll stop referring to the underlying technologies involved — including lasers, radar, cameras, embedded sensors, and advanced machine learning software — in terms of what they’re replacing. “Self-driving” or “smart” cars will simply become whatever we call the next generation of transportation technology. The change will become invisible. But typical of disruptive transformation in other industries, the U.S. legal system is already having trouble keeping up with the pace of developments in transportation. When Google first began testing its almost comical-looking prototype vehicles on California roads in 2009, lawmakers didn’t even have a vocabulary to talk about the new technology, let alone any understanding of whether driving rules and accident liability laws dating back 100 years or more would need to be adapted or completely rewritten.