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Benefits of Driverless Cars Justify Changing Liability Laws



DriverlessCar2012-03-26.jpg "The car is driven by a computer that steers, starts and stops itself. A 360 degrees laser scanner on top of the car, a GPS system and other sensors monitor the surrounding traffic." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p A13) Expect innovations that change the nature of driving more than anything since the end of the hand-crank engine--so long as the legal and regulatory systems don't strangle new digital technologies before they can roll off the assembly line.


. . .


Mr. Ford outlined a future of what the auto industry calls "semiautonomous driving technology," meaning increasingly self-driving cars. Over the next few years, cars will automatically be able to maintain safe distances, using networks of sensors, V-to-V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communications and real-time tracking of driving conditions fed into each car's navigation system.

This will limit the human error that accounts for 90% of accidents. Radar-based cruise control will stop cars from hitting each other, with cars by 2025 driving themselves in tight formations Mr. Ford describes as "platoons," cutting congestion as the space between cars is reduced safely.


. . .


Over the next decade, cars could finally become true automobiles. Our laws will have to be updated for a new relationship between people and cars, but the benefits will be significant: fewer traffic accidents and fewer gridlocked roads--and, perhaps best of all, young people will be in self-driving cars, not teenager-driven cars.



For the full commentary, see:

L. GORDON CROVITZ. "INFORMATION AGE; The Car of the Future Will Drive You; A truly auto-mobile is coming if liability laws don't stop it." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 5, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)





Comments

I was just reading about this in Diamandis' book. It's certainly an interesting concept, but I have to wonder how much resistance we will experience both culturally and commercially. Auto insurance companies might find such a low-risk world utterly unprofitable--how will their lobbying activities reflect this as these innovations become more and more popular? But the cultural resistance might be even stronger, especially in the U.S. Americans love their cars and even someone like me, who tends to see vehicles mostly for practical applications, isn't able to contain my smile while taking a little Porsche Boxster, top down, out onto the highway and opening it up. Americans far more gear-headed than I have built an entire culture around driving and automobiles--it's certainly one of the staples of the American experience. To some, owning a car and driving it is an extension of a free society. So cars that drive themselves while you simply ride along (no need for a DD for your night out at the club)? There are certainly great strides to be made there, but I wonder how much such a thing will be fully embraced and how many generations after it's availability it will take. Heck, I pooh-pooh'd eReaders when the technology was still in its infancy and clutched my weathered tomes like they were my small children. But then I got an iPad and saw the practicality of having digital version of books, especially for academic pursuits where it's far easier to search them for a particular nugget of knowledge than it is to peruse shelf upon shelf of books in my reading room trying to find one thing I had read 3 years ago about immigration policy. So maybe it's not as far out as I think.
I was just reading about this in Diamandis' book. It's certainly an interesting concept, but I have to wonder how much resistance we will experience both culturally and commercially. Auto insurance companies might find such a low-risk world utterly unprofitable--how will their lobbying activities reflect this as these innovations become more and more popular? But the cultural resistance might be even stronger, especially in the U.S. Americans love their cars and even someone like me, who tends to see vehicles mostly for practical applications, isn't able to contain my smile while taking a little Porsche Boxster, top down, out onto the highway and opening it up. Americans far more gear-headed than I have built an entire culture around driving and automobiles--it's certainly one of the staples of the American experience. To some, owning a car and driving it is an extension of a free society. So cars that drive themselves while you simply ride along (no need for a DD for your night out at the club)? There are certainly great strides to be made there, but I wonder how much such a thing will be fully embraced and how many generations after it's availability it will take. Heck, I pooh-pooh'd eReaders when the technology was still in its infancy and clutched my weathered tomes like they were my small children. But then I got an iPad and saw the practicality of having digital version of books, especially for academic pursuits where it's far easier to search them for a particular nugget of knowledge than it is to peruse shelf upon shelf of books in my reading room trying to find one thing I had read 3 years ago about immigration policy. So maybe it's not as far out as I think.

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