Cal. Litig. 2017, Volume 30, Number 1

Robot Vehicles and the Real World

By Raymond Paul Johnson

Think back. Remember the science fiction movies where robots rebelled and took control of the world? Well rest easy, we’re not there yet. But robot cars, on the other hand, are an integral part of our here and now.

Google, for example, has been testing podlike prototypes on open roads for almost two million miles. Ford, Renault-Nissan, Volvo, Tesla, Mercedes, VW-Audi, and GM are all in the fray to be first and best. Apple is rumored to have an iCar in its think tank, and Uber and Carnegie Mellon University recently partnered to open a robotic research center. Some work is complete; other work is in progress, but the central questions remain: How and when will driverless vehicles integrate safely into the real world?

This article covers the short history of autonomous vehicles; recent technology advances; pending, proposed and existing legislation; the effects of self-driving cars on worldwide industries; and real-world safety and liability issues, such as hacking vulnerabilities, winter driving, urban traffic challenges, and vehicles programmed to kill their occupants.

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