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Autonomous Vehicles and the Law

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the johnny-cab dept.

Transportation 417

Hugh Pickens writes "Google's autonomous cars have demonstrated that self-driving vehicles are now largely workable and could greatly limit human error, but questions of legal liability, privacy and insurance regulation have yet to be addressed. Simple questions, like whether the police should have the right to pull over autonomous vehicles, have yet to be answered and legal scholars and government officials warn that society has only begun wrestling with laws required for autonomous vehicles. The big question remains legal liability for the designers and manufacturers as some point out that liability exemptions have been mandated for vaccines, which are believed to offer great value for the general health of the population, despite some risks. 'Why would you even put money into developing it?' says Gary E. Marchant, director of the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Arizona State University law school. 'I see this as a huge barrier to this technology unless there are some policy ways around it.' Congress could consider creating a comprehensive regulatory regime to govern the use of these technologies say researchers at the Rand Corporation adding that while federal preemption has important disadvantages, it might speed the development and utilization of these technologies (PDF) and should be considered, if accompanied by a comprehensive federal regulatory regime. 'This may minimize the number of inconsistent legal regimes that manufacturers face and simplify and speed the introduction of these technologies.'"

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417 comments

Slashdot is dead (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824007)

Infiltrated by Google employees and well-wishers, Slashdot consistently offers justifications for every bad behavior and terrible decision coming from Google. Just look at the privacy changes article in which fanboys banded together to make sure Google was perceived as the good guy and that anyone critical of them was modbombed.

Just to recap, Google is a multibillion dollar advertising megacorporation that was caught by the German government sniffing people's wifi data (they "accidentally" did it for three years before admitting it only when authorities threatened an investigation), forced people to use real names on Google+ and admitted it was an identity service and not a social network, stuffed Google+ results into the search engine without any competing social networks even though they have those networks indexed by the search engine (hello, Microsoft tactics), said that the only people who care about privacy "have something to hide," hacked into Mocality to call its customers, removed H.264 support in Chrome out of "openness" only to turn around ship the closed-source Flash plugin, withheld Android source from the public but shared it with privileged hardware partners so they could have a leg up, abused their Android compatibility program to make things difficult for smartphone makers who chose Bing instead of Google, and on and on and on.

With all this crap they pull that would get them completely trashed if they were Microsoft or any other company, there's one reason and one reason only that they have been propped up as the good guy on Slashdot all these years--Linux. They use Linux. Slashdot is a Linux advocacy site, and so because Google uses Linux, they are good guys and get a pass for everything. That's all it takes to get Slashdot to love you. Just use Linux.

Hypocrites. When Microsoft used their Windows monopoly revenues to fund development of Internet Explorer and release it for free to try to dominate the web market, everyone here cried "antitrust!" But when Google uses its web search monopoly revenues to fund development of Android and release it for free to try to dominate smartphones, everyone defends it. For anyone who was on Slashdot during those times, to see Google doing all the very same things Microsoft did but get a completely different reaction is surreal.

Slashdot is a bubble. You only get pro-Google, pro-Linux news. Major news occurring elsewhere is often days late, if it gets reported at all. The Google+ search results fiasco is huge all over the tech sites right now, but there's nothing about it here, as if it doesn't even exist as a controversy. And did you know iOS surpassed Android in marketshare by the end of 2011 according to three research firms? With how obsessed Slashdot is over marketshare, and how they constantly trumpeted Android's marketshare all the time as a victory last year, you'd think it would be big news. But, no. This is pro-Google territory, pro-Linux territory. Gotta keep the natives happy for more page views.

This will get modded down because trolls have taken over the moderation system and openly subvert it. That's fine. It just proves my point about how Slashdot reacts to anything outside the partyline. This site's news reporting is old, antiquated, and slow, but the news isn't even why people come here anymore. The part of the community still remaining (after its years-long exodus to Reddit, Hacker News, and other sites, which is why traffic has decreased so dramatically on most Slashdot stories today) only comes here to pat themselves on the back for thinking a certain way. "Yeah, Microsoft is still evil! Yeah, Google is still the good guy! Yeah, Apple is still for chumps!" It's the year 2000 forever on Slashdot.

Re:Slashdot is dead (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824045)

Slashdot IS dead.
Apple IS still for chumps.
Microsoft, Apple, and Google are ALL evil.

Re:Slashdot is dead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824413)

What's funny is I was reading the story summary on the front page and wishing there was a facebook "share" button.

iOS has more marketshare than Android (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824015)

It's official: iOS now has more marketshare than Android. Reuters reports that Apple completely erased Android's marketshare lead [reuters.com] , confirming earlier reports by both Nielsen [nielsen.com] and NPD [gigaom.com] . Over 150 Android smartphones couldn't outcompete the iPhone 4S. With 37 million iPhones sold last quarter, Apple is the largest smartphone marker, and their profits exceed Google’s entire revenue, $13 billion to $10.6 billion. Finally, with 15 million iPads sold last quarter, the tablet market is now larger than the entire desktop PC market.

Remember that Slashdot triumphantly posted in January 2011 about Android surpassing iOS in marketshare [slashdot.org] . A year later when the opposite happens? Not a peep. Talk about bias.

Re:iOS has more marketshare than Android (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824043)

Haha? iOS has more marketshare? I think you need to look closer at what you are reading.

Before you go and have a hissy-fit, check your data. :D

Re:iOS has more marketshare than Android (-1, Offtopic)

mini me (132455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824151)

Android has a larger market share than the iPhone, no question. The data for Android vs. iOS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Apple TV) is not as well understood. I have yet to come across the data you are referring to.

Re:iOS has more marketshare than Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824077)

netcraft didn't confirm it. STFU

Organized trolling campaign by GreatBunzinni (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824021)

GreatBunzinni [slashdot.org] has been posting anonymous accusations [slashdot.org] listing a whole bunch of Slashdot accounts as being part of a marketing campaign for Microsoft, without any evidence. GreatBunzinni has accidentally outed himself [slashdot.org] as this anonymous poster. Half the accounts he attacks don't even post pro-Microsoft rhetoric. The one thing they appear to have in common is that they have been critical of Google in the past. GreatBunzinni has been using multiple accounts to post these "shill" accusations, such as Galestar [slashdot.org] , NicknameOne [slashdot.org] , and flurp [slashdot.org] .

That's not the problem. The problem is that moderators gave him +5 Informative and are now modding down the accused, even for legitimate posts. Metamoderation is supposed to address this by filtering out the bad moderators, but clearly it's not working.

This "shill" crap that has been flying around lately has to stop. It's restricting a variety of viewpoints from participating on the site and creating an echo chamber.

Re:Organized trolling campaign by GreatBunzinni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824299)

Who the hell cares? I hope that you eventually realize that to a troll, people like you are groupies.

Re:Organized trolling campaign by GreatBunzinni (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824545)

Nigger is a term of endearment for the half-ape, sub-human invasive species devolved from chimpanzees who eat fried chicken, watermelons and collard greens, make noise about raping white women and stealing welfare checks from invalid grandmothers so they can pretend they bought those plastic spinning hubcaps they stole from other niggers to pimp out their stolen 1974 Cadillacs. Break dancing was invented by niggers stealing hubcaps from moving cars. Niggers are lazy, dumb, and most of all, they smell even after taking a shower. They pretend to act civilized, but quickly give up the ghost when offended and resort to their monkey instincts by getting drunk on Colt 45, Olde English, or any other cheap ass Malt Liquor, smoke menthol cigarettes, weed, and crack cocaine, followed by raping white women and throwing their own feces as their tree-dwelling monkey predecessors. Nigger women, when challenged, will take off their earrings, shoes and bling as their brains are not big enough to know this has no fucking effect whatsoever. Niggers speak an abomination of a language they call ebonics - which is nothing more than gibberish filtered through thick, rubbery lips. Because of the prevelance of violence in black society, 9 out of 10 blacks will be gunned down before the age of three.

I Guarantee (3, Insightful)

ios and web coder (2552484) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824031)

The first folks that will learn to take control of autonomous vehicles will be crooks. New breed of highwayman...

Re:I Guarantee (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824073)

"Autonomous" does is neither a superset nor subset of "remote control".

Re:I Guarantee (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824087)

It doesn't need to be. The highwaymen crack the security and force the car to deviate to a location where the highwaymen can then rob the driver. Whether or not there's a driver in the car is beside the point.

Re:I Guarantee (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824117)

It does need to be remotely accessible to be remotely controlabble.

Re:I Guarantee (5, Informative)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824433)

From TFS:

...like whether the police should have the right to pull over autonomous vehicles...

How, exactly, would the police pull over an autonomous vehicle if there was no way to remotely access it? Therefore, hedwards was correct: there will be a way to crack the security and force the car to pull over, thus rendering autonomous vehicles vulnerable to the highwaymen. Hmmm...sounds like it could be the plot to a cool sci-fi story...

Re:I Guarantee (2)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824133)

Your idea of "cracking the security" seems to be roughly as developed as the plot to "Hackers".

Highwaymen can already jump people, force them off the road somehow to deviate to a location where they can rob the driver. Making something autonomous doesn't magically give thieves supernatural cracking abilities to get at the interfaces that drive the car.

--Jeremy

Re:I Guarantee (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824243)

I take it you've never heard of "Onstar." Once you get into the car there's going to be the possibility of feeding it new directions unless the systems are completely separated.

The difference here is that it's a lot easier for them to avoid being seen ahead of time and a lot less risk for themselves.

Re:I Guarantee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824457)

"Once you get into the car", as you said.

There's nothing inherent about an autonomous car that makes it any easier to "get into". Autonomous does not equal remotely accessible.

Re:I Guarantee (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824569)

Like I said in my other post, where precisely do these cars get their maps from? If they deal with congestion and road closures, that data has to come from somewhere. I remember seeing an episode of Monk where somebody screwed with the GPS navigation system to take the car off course.

It's fantasy stuff to believe that an autonomous car is going to be operating without maps any time soon and as long as the cars are dependent upon maps to know how to get where they're going, they're going to be susceptible to this sort of misdirection.

Honestly, I don't know where you guys get the idea that these cars aren't going to be susceptible to the same GIGO that affects everything else.

Re:I Guarantee (4, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824469)

Please look up the meaning of "autonomous". It seems to me that you are misunderstanding the concept of the term. Nowhere in its definition does it require that something which is autonomous get any of its operating instructions remotely. In fact, "autonomous" implies exactly the opposite.

Re:I Guarantee (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824539)

No, I'm not misunderstanding the concept. Where exactly do you think those maps come from? That the car just magically has all of them for the entire world, magically updated? Or perhaps congestion data?

The point is that if you think we're anywhere near the point where these things aren't going to have to connect to the net to get information you're sorely mistaken. Autonomous only implies one thing, no driver necessary. It does not imply that it's never going to touch the internet, in fact, it implies the opposite, unless of course you're going to make the driver plug a card in every time, and there you're just switching the attack vector.

Re:I Guarantee (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824583)

Okay... so it has to download a map from a server somewhere. That's a pretty far cry from being able to direct it to whereever you want to go. And considering immediate conditions will always take priority over any map data anyways (to account for objects on the road which a map will not show, such as other cars, pedestrians, etc), I'm not entirely sure how a person who even gets cars to download fake maps is going to be able to reliably direct them to an arbitrary location.

Re:I Guarantee (2)

n5vb (587569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824519)

"Autonomous" [..] is neither a superset nor subset of "remote control".

True enough. But the car will need to be aware of local traffic laws including speed limits and yield to/stop for emergency vehicles and official traffic stops, which means there is communication of some sort going into the car to make it aware of those things. It will also at a minimum have some GPS-like feature to make it aware of where it is, both for navigation and to index that reference of local laws;

Suppose someone figures out how to interfere with those things and inject their own malicious communication, first rerouting the car to a location where it's relatively easy to assault the people in it without too many witnesses, then when it arrives, telling it the speed limit is 5 mph so it slows to a crawl and can't outrun them, then faking a police pull-over signal to stop and immobilize it right where they want it. The designers may very well have added a speed-limit lock that remains active even if the driver manages to override the system and try to drive away, so the best the driver is able to do is crawl along at 5 mph while the carjackers smash in the windows at their leisure.

That's still an "autonomous" car, but by framing its parameters with malicious data, it's quite definitely being remotely controlled..

Re:I Guarantee (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824185)

They'll be crooks, sure enough--but they'll be in uniforms, and carrying badges. The government will even mandate that these cars be hackable. It's for your safety, you know. Then, of course, they'll extend that to vehicles with drivers too...

That's not the worst though. MADD will be out there advocating that you can be prosecuted or drunk driving in a driverless vehicle just because you pushed the start button.

Re:I Guarantee (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824321)

No, you can't be prosecuted for riding in a vehicle while drunk. There is no additional risk involved. We ain't gonna see MADP any time soon.

"Largely Workable" (2)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824037)

So like, %99.9 of the time they won't plunge full speed into oncoming traffic when it rains.
To err is human, to tear down a sidewalk at 55 miles per hour takes a computer.

Re:"Largely Workable" (4, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824063)

To err is human, to tear down a sidewalk at 55 miles per hour takes a computer.

Or alcohol.

Re:"Largely Workable" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824109)

To err is human, to tear down a sidewalk at 55 miles per hour takes a computer.

Or alcohol.

Or senility [cnn.com]

Re:"Largely Workable" (4, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824111)

Or texting, eating, adjusting the stereo, putting on make-up, or all the other stuff we do instead of watching the road. I ride a motorcycle, and people ask me if I think it's dangerous. I reply that at least I'm alert, watching the road, and have both hands on the handlebars with nary a phone or other distraction in sight. Autonomous vehicles don't have to be perfect to win me over, just better than the average driver, which is a terribly low bar to cross.

Re:"Largely Workable" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824239)

When else am I supposed to apply makeup wise guy?

Re:"Largely Workable" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824517)

Before you hit the bar or do an interview.

Re:"Largely Workable" (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824541)

Right after you wax that hormonal mustache and that pair of muttony sideburns growing down the sides of your neck, Juanita.

Re:"Largely Workable" (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824331)

Autonomous vehicles don't have to be perfect to win me over, just better than the average driver, which is a terribly low bar to cross.

You have a point, but I imagine it will be some time before a "largely workable" system is permitted to operate a vehicle on public roads. Under the current system, being in possession of a current driver's licence means that if you fuck up, you can get your ass kicked. But imagine any police department going up against Google... What could possibly go wrong?

Re:"Largely Workable" (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824375)

You have a point, but I imagine it will be some time before a "largely workable" system is permitted to operate a vehicle on public roads.

BMW in Germany already have test autonomous vehicles running on public roads amongst ordinary traffic.

But for general use I think it'll happen gradually.There are already publicly available systems that will apply the brakes for you if you are going to collide with the vehicle in front. And systems that will stop you from veering out of lane on a highways. There are even cars already out there that will perform parallel parking for you.

Aircraft autopilots didn't start doing landings from day one. They evolved from much simpler systems. Each step proving itself for a long time.

Re:"Largely Workable" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824293)

Computers need to make this mistake exactly only once, even if that once is simulated. Humans do it in real life constantly, a lot of times the same individuals.

Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824049)

Seriously, why wouldn't Police be allowed to pull over autonomous vehicles? Unless they are completely without flaw there's always going to be a few corner cases where there would be a legitimate need. Plus sometimes the police need to pull over a vehicle because a warrant has been issued for the owner of the car, but not directly related to the driving.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (2)

roeguard (1113267) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824081)

And what would be the point of pulling it over? Give it a stern reprimand before sending back on its way?

Unless the cop plans to either (1) Inspect it for malfunction/damage, or (2) Impound it, I don't see any reason to physically stop the vehicle. A properly tagged vehicle should provide all you need to issue a citation; no curb required.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (3, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824121)

Unless the cop plans to either (1) Inspect it for malfunction/damage, or (2) Impound it, I don't see any reason to physically stop the vehicle.

You're not a Toyota customer, are you? ;^)

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824127)

I think you are being too literal and thinking of a car with no passengers at all. There is a need to pull over the vehicle if the person in it is breaking the law (like using it as a getaway car). The question is if this should be an automatic function or not. The issue is that you can get the person's defense of "I wasn't evading, it was driving itself" or the like

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (4, Interesting)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824261)

This raises a good point... autonomous vehicles need to be programmed to safely pull off to the side of the road when an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing and siren on. It then has to wait there until it is safe to rejoin traffic. Do the current ones do that?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (4, Insightful)

Garridan (597129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824225)

Suppose a vehicle hits a pedestrian or cyclist, and drags [seattlepi.com] the corpse. A witnessing cop can either (1) pull the vehicle over, or (2) follow the vehicle at a polite distance while all identifying features of the victim are shed to the ground. I think pulling the vehicle over is the appropriate course of action here. If nothing else, to prevent the trauma to hundreds of witnesses.

If a vehicle is being operated recklessly, it should get pulled over. If there are outstanding tickets / warrants for its owner, it should be searched / impounded. I don't see why the presence of a driver should matter here.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (2)

hajus (990255) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824277)

There certainly may be a diminished need for traffic enforcement leading to fewer police cars on the road, but having cars completely ignore police and just driving on is going to cause problems in emergencies. The police do need to pull over supect passengers and vehicles for contraband such as drugs, child porn, illegal guns, etc. There are also observed crimes such as someone in the car waving a gun around in the car on the road. Then you do have the malfunction and damaged vehicles such as with the equivalent of a broken turning signal. While these are certainly rarer circumstances than today's traffic monitoring, I don't think it's a good idea for these cars to ignore police having 'some' unforeseen reason to pull them over.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824419)

And what would be the point of pulling it over?

Child stuck in car.
Passenger needs medical assistance.
Bomb needs defusing.
Bridge out ahead, sensors not adequate.

Man, I wish I lived in the perfect world you do. It must be nice where nothing goes wrong, and nobody has any ill intent.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (4, Informative)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824555)

And what would be the point of pulling it over?

You are assuming that all a cop wants to do is issue a citation. Here are some more plausible possibilities, just off the top of my head:

1) There's an emergency up ahead, and police need to stop all the vehicles headed in that direction to prevent the emergency from escalating.
2) The vehicle is driverless, but not necessarily riderless -- i.e., the police need to rescue a kidnapping victim, or apprehend a wanted felon/terrorist (hey, it's the current buzzword), or search for narcotics, or...
3) You gave other reasons yourself (namely, inspecting it for malfunction/damage or impounding it). In those cases, a citation may not be necessary, but it might be necessary to remove it from the road because it presents a hazard to others.
4) What if it's not properly tagged?

Keep in mind, if the vehicle is autonomous, it probably won't be speeding, it probably won't run red lights or stop signs, it probably won't be driving recklessly (unless it has faulty sensors). Unlike with human-piloted automobiles, I think issuing citations for anything other than expired tags would be rather unlikely.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (5, Insightful)

morcego (260031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824085)

Good news is, since the vehicle is computer based, to pull the vehicle over the police would most likely have to issue a computer command, which could be logged, including date, time and identity of the police officer who issue the other. If it is related to a warrant, it could even be linked to court data.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824485)

and when this software based system is manipulated, misused, or hacked in some way (as anything inevitably will be) who is responsible for the weakness that has been exploited? Government regulation committee, manufacturer, police department, or vehicle owner?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (3, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824097)

Sure. But it's still an interesting question. It's illegal for a driver to speed or jump a red light or whatever, but if an automated car with 4 people in it does one of those things, who, if anyone, has broken the law?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1, Insightful)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824173)

The designer of the car broke the law, the vehicle is defective breaking traffic laws and needs to be impounded and the builder fined for endangering the public.

When a computer is a box sitting on someone's desk that computes figures and shows lights on a display there is no reason to restrict who can do what with machines and they should be open to hacking and modification. When they are connected to networks the burden goes up a bit and maybe code has to be signed or restricted to a safe API on top of a trusted locked OS (but probably not, in my opinion). But by the time the computer is connected to hardware fully capable of killing people both inside and outside the computer the game has changed and the system needs to be locked down so it can't be hacked and the developers need to take responsibility for their actions. An owner of a car no longer has the right to hack the device because they own it, at least they can't then put it on public roads. Just as drivers need to pass a test the design of an autonomous vehicle needs to pass a test (regulated) to use our roads. This will probably mean leased vehicles owned by the builder company with per mile, per minute, per month fee structures to generate revenue to offset settlements for accidents (which will still happen). The law should then limit the costs of a computer caused accident to the same penalties that a human driver would face for an unintentional accident with the same circumstances.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824259)

The designer of the car broke the law, the vehicle is defective breaking traffic laws and needs to be impounded and the builder fined for endangering the public.

How?

Is there a database of traffic laws? Who provides the data? Is the data correct?

Does the vehicle read road signs? Are the signs correct? Are they transiently obscured by a parked vehicle or a pedestrian?

Computers, even with perfect design and implementation, are still able to do the wrong thing. Garbage in, garbage out. (I can't fucking believe I have to write this on /. of all places.)

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (4, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824311)

"Is there a database of traffic laws? Who provides the data? Is the data correct?"

Yes. Every state, online. For smaller locales, the autonomous folk wanting my money had better do a good job of acquiring it, just like the local humans must.

"Does the vehicle read road signs?"

An autonomous vehicle had *better* read road signs, and pretty damned well.

"Are the signs correct? Are they transiently obscured by a parked vehicle or a pedestrian?"

Same problems humans face, too bad.

"Computers, even with perfect design and implementation, are still able to do the wrong thing. Garbage in, garbage out."

Same for the humans, yet fines stand for them. I disagree with your premise. I believe that if a vehicle cannot do all the things a human is required to do, it cannot be an autonomous vehicle. It's just remote-controlled.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824489)

The question goes to the heart of the argument. If the average driver has a 1.5% chance of causing a collision, but an automated on 1% then clearly the automated vehicle is preferable (to over simplify somewhat). However if the 'designers' at GM are responsible for 20 million cars then they have no incentive to ever try and work, because merely by law of averages they're going to get screwed selling millions of cars a year.

A couple of months ago the brakes failed on my car and I narrowly avoided hitting two people. Now the thing is, my car had been at the shop to get the brakes checked and repaired about 3 weeks before that. Who is really at fault? In 3 weeks the auto shop can't really be liable for anything that happened to the brakes, but I had no indication there was a problem until I had a loud thunking sound, and no braking action (go go emergency brakes). Had I been a fraction of a second slower realizing what just happened, well, the law would have held me liable for hitting two people. Even though I would attempt to argue that I did due diligence on the brakes, and was braking from a safe distance (but when you're going 60 Km/h and your brakes fail it takes a moment to process what happened and what your solutions are,and what your fall back scenarios are going to be if the emergency brake doesn't work, and even then you're guessing just how quickly the emergency brake will stop you).

In your case, you're saying what we all know. All data is dirty, and no one thing is 100% tolerant of all possible input cases from the dirty data (in addition to all other failures that can happen on a device). Our legal systems don't really play nice with the real world statistical probabilities of random failures, or how you ascribe blame to something that isn't intentional. It would be most unfortunate if a data entry clerk from 20 years ago is held liable because they typed a speed limit into a database as 80kph rather than the intended 60.

I suppose in some ways it is similar to a national healthcare and medical malpractice problem. People die, all of us. Just as mechanical devices will eventually fail. If you individually mandate responsibility to service providers (drivers, mechanics, doctors) you end up with a much different system than if you collectivize the risk (think NHS in the UK). If the goal is a system that in general reduces accidents you need to move away from trying to assign blame on a case by case basis, and providers who consistently make mistakes can be dealt with internally- but you'll have to accept some sort of shared insurance system for the fact that accidents will happen. Whether that's manufacturers or operators who pay into it (or the government or points of sale or....) I don't know.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824349)

The vaccine example in the summary suggests the designer can be exempt from all liability - even for genuine defects introduced by them, no matter how or why. I dislike blanket immunity. When there is an arguable case for genuinely defective design AND it would be reasonable for the manufacturer to know this (not all defects are knowable/identifiable in advance, but that doesn't mean all are) then there should be no automatic immunity.

It may require a special court of experts to properly determine if it was reasonably knowable, and there is no system for that at present, but that's a defect in the politics of high technology. Just because a system designed for farming communities doesn't work well for ultra-specialized professions doesn't mean we should exempt such professionals from scrutiny. It just means we need to devise a system capable of scrutinizing them.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824219)

But it's still an interesting question

Not really. It's illegal to murder someone, but nobody puts the bullet on trial.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824103)

Seriously, why wouldn't Police be allowed to pull over autonomous vehicles?

I think the question isn't so much "would the police be legally allowed to do it" as "how would a policeman actually go about doing it"?

Will the car be programmed to watch for lights and a siren and pull itself over when it 'sees' them? Or would the policeman need to send a special "pull over" signal on a remote control? Etc.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824283)

Will the car be programmed to watch for lights and a siren and pull itself over when it 'sees' them?

Yes, of course it will, because it needs to get right anyway (to allow the cop to pass), if getting right puts it on the shoulder, it should stop. Anything short of that behavior would be incredibly dangerous. Even when I'm not being pulled over, this is the behavior when a cop, ambulance, or firetruck is behind me with lights on. I'm curious how well a car could handle a cop car coming through a crowded street, I imagine that'd be pretty taxing for the software, as you often have to break rules to let it happen.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (3, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824291)

I think the question isn't so much "would the police be legally allowed to do it" as "how would a policeman actually go about doing it"?

Will the car be programmed to watch for lights and a siren and pull itself over when it 'sees' them? Or would the policeman need to send a special "pull over" signal on a remote control? Etc.

If all else fails, why can't the occupant push the "Computer, please stop at the earliest safe location" button?

(Such a function will be present, as it will fit right in next to the array of "I have to piss/puke/shit IMMEDIATELY" button(s).)

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (2)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824197)

Of course police can pull over an "autonomous" car, for a myriad of perfectly valid reasons both related to traffic safety and not.

And if the driver is asleep, and the car fails to stop on its own, someone gets a "fleeing and evading" citation/arrest/jail sentence like they would in any other road-going vehicle that fails to stop.

I don't understand why "can police stop an autonomous car" is even a fucking question. Seriously.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824203)

How do you pull a car over with no one inside?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824255)

Take advantage of its collision-avoidance software. Surround it, and slow down.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824281)

Where did it say nobody was inside?

Of course police will be able to pull over autonomous vehicles. They have to be able to. Vehicles must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles displaying the appropriate lights. As in, it's a fucking ambulance, pull over and stop moron.

And what should the police do if a defective vehicle is creating a hazard to others? Let it go because it's autonomous? Like the Washington state police couldn't PIT a woman going the wrong way down the interstate for 60 miles, sometimes as slowly as 30 MPH?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

n5vb (587569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824445)

Where did it say nobody was inside?

What if it has a "go find a remote parking site and come back and pick me up at (insert time here)" feature?

(Yes, I know that part of that answer is "every valet parking company in the country sues the manufacturer", but you know someone's going to think of it. I did, years ago.)

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824459)

They're automomous, at some point they're likely to be operating on their own.

But, either way, I'm sure at some point one of these things is going to arrive somewhere driving half way with a dead body because the driver died and there were no sensors to tell the car about the death.

I'm guessing that when cars get to the point where they can basically go on autopilot for portions of the trip that they'll also have some sort of software to tell them to pull over when law enforcement says to.

As for that driver, they weren't trying to execute a PIT, they were trying to blow the tires out with nail strips and from the sounds of it she wasn't doing 30 for periods, she was weaving all over the place and accelerating and slowing.

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824351)

send a cryptographically signed security API command, of course! what could possibly go wrong?

Re:Why wouldn't police be able to? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824403)

Seriously, why wouldn't Police be allowed to pull over autonomous vehicles?

Of course you have to give police the ability to stop these vehicles, if for no other reason than to avoid accidents or congestion. Not to mention the possibility of sending bombs or something.

But its not always that easy. When was the last time you saw a policeman pull over an Elevator? Or an Escalator. Or the unmanned shuttle trains such as at SeaTac Airport [youtube.com] or Morgantown WV Personal Rapid Transit [wikipedia.org] .

Admittedly captured vehicles on their own tracks are not exactly the same as autonomous vehicles mixed with other traffic.

An autonomous vehicle is not that easy to stop other than get in its way and hope the programmer has designed in a safe stop. Alternatively you would need a police radio device to force a stop. (Which would be the first thing a terrorist would disable, and the first thing the hackers would p0wn).

But liability hardly seems a new issue. Its obviously going to be the person in remote control, the owner, or the manufacturer, probably in that pecking order. I suspect this is an area of settled law based on the elevator / escalator / automomous trains.

There is starting to be a history accumulated with Remote Controlled Freight Trains [labornotes.org] . These trains already exhibit 25% more accidents than trains with engineers aboard according to one law firm [dallaspers...awblog.com] . In some cities, unmanned trains are allowed to cross roads and bridges. So even while confined to their own tracks they do interact with human operated vehicles.

Making autonomous vehicles that only have to deal with other autonomous vehicles would be much easier than making them deal with humans. That fact alone pretty much argues for separated systems, or separate segments of the roadway, portions under mandatory computer control, and other portions under human control.

And when the car breaks down? (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824099)

Let's be clear about a few things here:

The police will have the authority to pull over an autonomous vehicle. Even in a perfect libertarian utopia, the police will have the authority to pull over an autonomous vehicle.

Liability insurance on the first generations of autonomous vehicles will be insanely expensive.

These things might work great when they're new, but I shudder to think of what the ongoing certification process will requrie as they age. Cars are mechanical things. They break down. They fail in unexpected ways. My wife is a fine driver under ideal conditions, but she's been in several fender benders. The other driver has always been at fault, but they're the kind of things a better driver would recognize and avoid. There's a lot of stupid on the road that I've managed to avoid over the years and I just can't see a self driving car doing that. On the other hand, the self driving car would (hopefully) be doing fewer stupid things as well. It's nice that it can drive on sunny california roads. How well will it do in a Minnesota blizzard?

Re:And when the car breaks down? (2)

scialex (1283788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824279)

"How well will it do in a Minnesota blizzard?"

This one question will probably be what keeps these cars from being sold until at least a decade from now.

Likely to be adopted elsehwere, far before in USA (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824101)

Some government, maybe even China, could embrace Autonomous Vehicles and press the technology forward (as an Authoritarian regime can) and find it improves public safety immensely (China has a high mortality rate on a high accident rate), further revealing other great benefits to their society - while people continue to wrestle with it in the US, over concerns as stated above.

When I traveled around Europe on trains I was thrilled how carefree I could be about intercity travel and how fast and comfortable TGV/ICE can be. Then return to the US and arrive at the decision it is a backward country for dismantling most of its once far-reaching rail network in favor of a car (or two) for every adult - but that's how you get around, which means long trips are a major drag - you have to focus on the most tedius of activities for hours at a time - driving. Ugh. Autonomous Vehicles could alleviate some of this tedium.

Re:Likely to be adopted elsehwere, far before in U (5, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824217)

I can see why in the US there is such resistance to autonomous vehicles: Small towns and counties depend on driver error, be it speeding, red light cameras, or stuff like that for revenue. An autonomous system means that everyone will be going the speed limit, so no tickets (and no chance at finding marijuana and thus earning a civil forfeiture prize) will be given.

This is sad because the US is the perfect place for autonomous vehicles -- most cities are too sprawled out for even buses to be reliable, much less light rail. So, vehicles that drive themselves would be ideal because it would allow long distances to be covered with vehicles packed in as much as their computer and mechanical systems would allow, compared to current driving conditions which depend on the driver's ability/reactions (or lack of when compared to a computer.) Even for people who don't own a car, it wouldn't be hard to have a Car2Go/Zipcar like service.

Even more ironic, with computer controlled cars, it would lesson the need for more and more highway improvements. Cars can be sped up or slowed down to allow vehicles in and out, they can be moved into lanes depending on their destination, and if there is a vehicle problem, it can be moved to the side of the road and traffic routed around it without putting the highway out of commission for hours on end. This would save a municipal area far more money than they ever would earn by speeding tickets.

Re:Likely to be adopted elsehwere, far before in U (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824229)

The interesting proposition is can/should we give legal liability to the manufacturer, and have the owner shoulder the entire liability instead? I vote in favor of suing individuals AND corporations, especially since corporations are now considered people. After all, how else can lawyers make a living? Why they'd have to become politicians instead.

Will the code be on the same level as autopilot? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824315)

Will the code be on the same level as autopilot systems where stuff has to go though all kinds of checks?

Same China that peopel don't help do to liability (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824287)

Yes the same china where a small kid was run over and Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed. High-profile law suits have ended with good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/watch_child_run_over_and_ignored_8fVgzdy3ipdh9NPDGEwlZL#ixzz1kWOR8hJr [nypost.com]

Re:Likely to be adopted elsehwere, far before in U (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824367)

The district of Berlin, Germany, changed its local laws to allow automated vehicles. One model (made by local researchers) has been homologated so far.

Re:Likely to be adopted elsehwere, far before in U (3, Funny)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824391)

Even if it is adopted in a place like China, don't expect it to make a difference in the US. As you've already pointed out, intercity travel is fast and comfortable in Europe using trains, but Americans are blissfully unaware of anything that occurs outside of the states.

Big brother (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824143)

Except they will never be "autonomous". They will require constant communication with central authorities who will have the power to micromanage routes, stop the car, deny admission to roads due to congestion or detour the occupants to the nearest reeducation camp.

They will be equipped with mandatory remotly controlled cameras and microphones with views inside and outside the vechicle.

Manual driving will then be banned in the name of "safety".

Everywhere you go and everything you do in your vechicle will be recorded and stored FOREVER, data mined and used against your personal interests with impunity.

sorry that you got hit by that autonomous car... (4, Funny)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824145)

But they're magically exempt from liability so fuck you!

Central Planning does NOT work. (-1, Flamebait)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824165)

It is completely absurd to think that the correct course of action is for a committee—a committee of bureaucrats, no less!—to pretend to gaze into some crystal ball in order to divine laws for a societal development that has yet to materialize in any appreciable form. A "comprehensive regulatory regime" will do nothing but stifle useful development.

What is the best way to construct an eyeball from hydrogen atoms? It took a mindless process like evolution (including cosmic evolution) to figure it out, not central planning by an intelligent designer. Our super computers and dedicated scientists can't even predict the weather terribly accurately; what makes you think any "expert" has the slightest clue how to predict and control social, technological, and economic development?

As with anything else that is so complicated, society should be allowed to evolve. The laws should emerge from reality, not from a committee of bureaucrats.

Central planning does NOT work.

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824309)

it took a mindless process over 14 billion years to figure out, at least on this planet (which took the first 10 billion to exist in the first place). I don't have that much time.

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (2)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824425)

Nobody wants to wait. That's the whole point. That's why it is absurd to attempt to formulate a comprehensive system from first principles. We should let this new societal development unfold RIGHT NOW, and construct that comprehensive system along the way.

As an aside, while it took 10 billion years to go from the Big Bang to a newly formed Earth, it only took 4.4998 billion years to go from replicating molecules to the anatomically modern human, and less than 200 thousand years more to get to our modern civilization. Evolution progresses exponentially, because the selective phenomena become more complex.

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (3, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824369)

Yes Central Planning is bollucks BOLLUCKS I SAY!

As is Central Design for automated cars. Why evolution created an eye so we should just sit on our collected asses for 4 million years and I'm sure an automated car shall simply evolve! And I'm sure as it evolves it'll create the *perfect* solution after those 4 million years.

After all, we all know eyes are the very best possible imaging devices every created. Those silly telescopes, nightvision goggles and highspeed cameras have nothing on our vision!

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (1)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824499)

You are confused. Nothing is "centrally designed"; what you consider an "intelligent designer" is actually just a more complicated "selector".

Automated cars, telescopes, nightvission goggles, highspeed cameras, etc. all developed through trial and error (especially of the foundational concepts): variation (sometimes random!) and selection.

The selective phenomena have just gotten much more sophisticated over time, and the things being selected have themselves gotten much more sophisticated over time; the modern human can make selections much better than the single cell from which he ultimately descended. That is the nature of evolution: Exponential progress [slashdot.org] .

Trying to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework from the very outset is a mistake; only the most obvious regulations should be put in place, and we should allow this societal development to begin right away without further regulatory inhibition, so that it can evolve naturally as it unfolds under the selective pressures of society.

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (5, Interesting)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824407)

What is the best way to construct an eyeball from hydrogen atoms?

We don't know and it depends on the definition of "best", but it's almost certainly never happened before. Human eyes have glaring flaws -- blind spot, limited colour receptivity, unimpressive resolution compared to some known alternatives, relatively high light requirements, easily damaged, degrades over time, inconsistent with many humans having very poor vision even at their peak, easily damaged by the giant space explosion that is continuously running in the sky for ~half of the average day, slow to adjust to dimmer lighting conditions, limited range of motion and extremely limited independent range of motion. Some other animals correct those flaws but have other flaws all of their own. Evolution actually does a very poor job of finding globally optimal solutions, but it does a reasonable job at identifying local maxima / minima of sufficient signifiance, and hanging around in the area of same maxima / minima.

Our super computers and dedicated scientists can't even predict the weather terribly accurately; what makes you think any "expert" has the slightest clue how to predict and control social, technological, and economic development?

Unstated assumption: that the weather is consistently less complicated than these other things.

The laws should emerge from reality, not from a committee of bureaucrats.

I'm not quite sure what that means. No law (as in, legal law) has ever "emerged from reality" in any sense that I can understand the phrase.

Re:Central Planning does NOT work. (1)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824529)

Law emerges from reality through court cases. It almost never works well to try to create "comprehensive" legal frameworks by gazing into crystal balls. For complex systems, you MUST run the simulation; you must let reality unfold and process it AS IT HAPPENS.

As for the rest of your comment, I essentially tackle it here [slashdot.org] .

30,000 people die a year in traffic accidents (4, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824181)

That are 100% human controlled in the USA. but the first death at the hands of autonomous vehicles will be all over CNN the first time it happens. There will be congressional investigations, Department of Transportation studies, and on and on - yet, ideally they theoretically take the worst part of driving out of the equation - the driver.

Re:30,000 people die a year in traffic accidents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824333)

And add something worse.... The software update.
Hey boss, Id like to come into work today, but XYZ updated my car and it only turns left.

Re:30,000 people die a year in traffic accidents (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824371)

...the first death at the hands of autonomous vehicles will be all over CNN the first time it happens. There will be congressional investigations...

Why wait until then [injuryboard.com] ?

People moving just the start (5, Interesting)

swamp_ig (466489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824201)

People moving is just the start for autonomous vehicles. The real revolution will be in moving goods with little micro-movers.

Run out of milk? no problem, just order some on your fridge and it's at the front door in minutes. Want a hot dinner? Log into your local restraunt and order one to go.

Taxi services will be cheap, affortable, and accessable. Noone need own a car anymore. No need for a garrage or driveway infront of your house. No need for traffic lights, aproaching cars will just 'book' a timeslot through the intersection, narrowly avoiding collisions with safety, speeding the journey to and fro and saving energy as you don't need to brake and accelerate anymore.

Autonomous mobility is going to be truly revolutionary in the way we live.

Re:People moving just the start (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824323)

yeah! when I was a kid I had a book from 1970 or so, describing how the year 2000 will be like. I don't remember most of it, but certainly people living in underwater cities of 70's design. you know, kinda like the the world we live in today, yes?

oh, and it had those robocars, too. I still remember the pic of a family playing cards while "being driven" along the highway. I also recall huge, efficient farms... but what I don't recall is the book going a whole lot into politics, the gap between rich and poor, or making people obsolete, which also is accurately like the world we live in today. that's just not as fascinating, it doesn't capture the imagination quite as nicely.

what about crimal liability? a auto car can kill (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824275)

Lets say a auto car thinks a small kid on who is crossing the road / fell down is some thing like a skunk and it just runs the kid over and keeps driving?

What if a auto car drives though a road that closed off as some one did not mark it as so in a data base?

Red light cameras and speed cameras who get's the ticket?

Fails to see a school bus red lights / stop sign?

Getting Pulled Over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38824337)

Officer: Can I see your Autonomous Vehicle License, Proof of Insurance, and your Hard Drive.

limiting manufacturer liability is easy (1)

thegreatemu (1457577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824399)

I have a simple formula: if the autonomous cars cause fewer accidents (maybe weighted by severity in some way) than a similar model of cars driven by humans, they are good.

Why should autonomous cars have to be perfect, instead of just an incremental improvement over the norm?

The Real Problem (5, Interesting)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824421)

It is likely that automation will produce vehicles that will perform better than human-driven cars, trucks, and buses. That would certainly result in fewer accidents, reduced congestion, and MUCH lower costs. In there lies the rub. Since the major cost component of commercial transportation is 'the driver', automation would put tens of millions of people out of work just in the United States. For example, with a fleet of smaller, electric vehicle, the entire bus system of a city could be replaced. Rides would cost on par with bus tickets, and service would be 'on demand' like taxi service without the tips. Many people would choose not to own a car if a 'chauffeur driven' vehicle were readily available 'for hire'. Commuting would be transformed, and rush hour traffic would become manageable, reducing construction for road expansion. Car sales would plummet, as would gasoline sales and body shop service. Cars and trucks could run coast to coast with only fuel stops; so could trains, reducing motel and restaurant revenues. These are just a few examples of the seachange.

Every taxi, limo, bus, and truck driver will band together to stop this. Auto manufacturers, construction firms, and oil companies, fearing a drop in revenues, will join them. Lobbyist will fill every waiting room in Congress to ram 'drivers' rights' legislation. Their effort will make the RIAA look like kids watching Sesame Street.

Try it on old people and the disabled. (1)

gorrepati (866378) | more than 2 years ago | (#38824461)

You got work through angles in cases like this. Going straight out wouldn't work. The first step is to try it on old people, who cannot drive, but possibly control the car. Make it illegal to leave to car seat, and in the case of a accident the user is at fault. Because it is his liability to keep looking. Also, have black boxes made by a 3rd party to record exactly what happened. In case of non-user errors, where the car refuses to relinquish control, get sued. I am sure that hit is not hard to take for a company like google.

Give it time, time for the technology to be perfect and law to catchup with technology. Fail fast and learn.
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