Comparing Regulatory Approaches for Driverless Cars

Oct. 10, 2017  |  By Stone Tillotson

Australia's National Transport Commission (NTC) recently released a discussion paper concerning the imminent development and use of automated driving systems (ADS). These systems hold the promise of diminishing roadway fatalities, improving mobility for those unable to drive, reducing shipping costs, and so on. The Commission's report identifies areas of law to be amended, including enumeration of the legal responsibilities incurred by owners and operators of ADS enabled vehicles. The report signals a much bigger step into the needed regulatory changes than a similar, but more tentative, discussion paper released by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in September. One omission in Australia's NTC's report, however, is the absence of cybersecurity guidelines, something present in the NHTSA report.

IISP Analyst Stone Tillotson: "When ADS vehicles begin whisking millions of people around, it will literally become a matter of life and death to ensure that their over-the-air updates are coming from the right party. Driving legislation worldwide will have to change in the near future, so these overdue discussions are showing their need more and more. Liability is one of the key questions at stake. When does a manufacturer have a duty to provide software updates? When does a driver have a duty to deploy them? A faulty turn signal may result in a ticket for faulty equipment; the blame is easy to assign and there's no valid reason to excuse it. This analogy doesn't pair well with equipment that has invisible faults, and with users who may have valid concerns about automatic updates. Tesla hacks have been demonstrated by security researchers multiple times now, so any driver could plausibly defend either allowing or blocking updates as satisfying their duty of care. This confusion is what we can hope both the NTC's and NHTSA's future regulations will resolve, but for now we can expect only the impending legal morass and a grim wait for more catastrophes."

 

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