Automated Convenience: The Legal Implications of Robot Drivers
It is no surprise that the rate of technological advancements we’ve seen permeate our lives are growing by the numbers. Automation is a particular area where machines have complemented and streamlined our responsibilities, from daily tasks in the workplace to transportation. Autonomous vehicles are an expanding innovation in the automotive industry that has seen early adoption around the world. In 2017, the Government of Ontario approved the University of Waterloo, the Erwin Hymer Group, and Blackberry QNX to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads across the province. Although Ontario’s regulations allowing manufacturers the ability to test this technology are forgiving, the regulatory framework still has some adapting to do. Much of this regulation boils down to the same questions the legal community has been asking themselves in light of increased automation – is it safe, and if so, who does fault lie with if something goes wrong?
The technology behind autonomous vehicles will inevitably lead to significant legal developments. Current automated vehicle technologies include lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control, front crash prevention systems, blind spot detection, and park assist amongst others . Although centred on convenience, complete automation has been inhibited by factors including the high technological component prices, varying degrees of consumer trust in the technology, and the relatively non-existent regulations for more sophisticated developments . Another practical implication of utilizing this technology is the need for wide adoption in order to have notable effects in reducing traffic congestion, and more generally effectively communicating with other vehicles on the road.
Research by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) also found that another key consideration regarding the use of autonomous vehicles involves their susceptibility to cyber attacks, primarily because of the early stages of the technology. For example, a driver who connects with a third-party application using the internet in connected vehicles would be putting the entire vehicle at risk in the event that the social media app is compromised. The nature of using the third-party app would divert any responsibility away from the manufacturing company over the data security of the vehicle, which presents an accountability gap that few are comfortable with .
The adoption of fully autonomous vehicles is understandably reliant on the product being embedded with reliable software that will keep both drivers and pedestrians safe. Automakers including Tesla, Google, and Audi are eager to mass produce driverless vehicles and bring them to the Canadian market. Although it will take time, there is no doubt fully autonomous vehicles are on the way.