Kirsten Johanson, MJLST Staff Member
On a glorious Halloween day last fall, the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology (MJLST) co-sponsored its annual symposium entitled “Automated Vehicles: The Legal and Policy Road Ahead.” As the title implies, this symposium focused on one of the more exciting and innovative areas of the automotive industry–self-driving cars. Numerous academics, researchers, and innovators in the industry presented on the major issues that impact this industry’s future, specifically in terms of safety and other regulatory standards. Ensuring that proper standards are in place before these vehicles take to the roads is necessary to protect the pubic against everything from the cars’ operations in bad weather conditions to irresponsible human operators. Many of these standards require legislative involvement to craft state and national policy that strikes the delicate balance between safety and integration of new technology.
These issues are hugely important in the future development and integration of autonomous vehicle technology. In recognition of that importance, MJLST’s upcoming publication (Volume 16.2) is expected to include four articles written by experts and scholars in the autonomous vehicle field that address a number of major issues that arise in conjunction with the development of autonomous vehicle technology. Each of these articles expands on a particular idea presented at the symposium but, despite the differences in article topics, one recurring theme is the radical change that will develop upon a workable regulatory scheme and publicly available vehicles.
While numerous regulatory concerns require further development before these so-called self-driving cars are ready to hit the road with the general pubic at the wheel (or, in Google’s case, lack thereof . . .), none of the major car companies are missing the opportunity to participate in the development of autonomous technology. Every major car manufacturer in the world from Volkswagen to Audi as well as the ever technologically savvy Google is trying its hand at autonomous development (see depictions below). Not only does this competitive push for technological creativity result in a dynamic array of vehicle characteristics and (most importantly) awesome looking cars, it also indicates that, given the proper regulatory structure, the autonomous vehicle industry is poised to explode.
That being said, this is an area of the law that must continue to adapt with the changing technology. Regulators need to understand the impacts autonomous cars will have on the public from both convenience and safety perspectives and draft legislation accordingly. The symposium articles published in MJLST Volume 16.2 recognize this regulatory need and address specific issues that provide helpful insight to any interested party.
Self-driving cars might be one of the more futuristic ideas of the next generation and all of the decisions of today will impact the ultimate success of such vehicles. A basic Internet search for “autonomous vehicles” shows the potential is there and growing every day–even companies like Uber are getting involved! The wave of the future is sneaking upon on us and what that wave looks like is up to the initial responsive decisions made in the next five years. Check out MJLST Volume 16.2 for an in-depth analysis of what those decisions might look like and how they will impact various aspects of your life.