Technology is moving faster than the legal system in everyindustry, andautomateddrivingisnoexception. In order for society to manage and apportion the risks
associated with automated technology, the rules of the road
need to be rewritten. Everything from licensing to criminal
regulation will need to be analyzed as vehicles, rather than
their human drivers, take more control over actual driving. The
lag between technology and the law will be greater and arrive
sooner than expected. Yes, truly driverless technology is more
than a few years off, but automated driving is already here and
is quickly being accelerated by most automakers. For example,
vehicles today already stop automatically, maintain speed and
have lane control options.
A significant number of automakers
have introduced, or will introduce in the
next year, significant developments in automated technology. Automated driving
will dominate new vehicle offerings and
support a safer and less accident-prone
transportation environment. This rapid
development, however, comes at a cost.
The introduction of automated driving
will expose significant gaps in the traditional legal framework and challenge lawmakers, regulators and courts to fashion
laws that support what is in essence the
inception of a new transportation system.
Automated driving technology
Automated driving is a broad concept encompassing a wide range of technologies
and capabilities, some existing in vehicles
today and others still years away. The National Highway Transit Safety Agency has
outlined a framework for automated driving with five levels:
Level 0 – No automation. The driver
maintains control of all vehicle
operations at all times.
Level 1 – Function specific automation.
One or more driving functions
is automated, like parallel park
assist or automatic breaking.
Level 2 – Combined function automation. Two primary control functions are automated and designed
to work in unison, like adaptive
cruise control and lane centering.
Level 3 – Limited self-driving automa-tion. Full control of driving functions switches back and forth
between the driver and vehicle
depending on conditions.
Level 4 – Full self-driving automation. The
vehicle performs all safety critical driving functions.
The concept of automated vehicles as fu-
turistic or coming “down the road” is large-
ly inaccurate as many of the new product
offerings are increasingly equipped with
combined function automation, like lane-
keeping assist and radar-assisted cruise
control as standard features.
Many vehicles today are already operat-
ing at Level 2, with two automated func-
tions working in tandem. In addition,
depending on the traffic situation, some
vehicles are operating at what is close to
Level 3 automation.
For example, in 2015, Tesla introduced
version 7.1 of its AutoPilot software. Us-
ing forward radar, cameras and ultrasonic
sensors already built into the current
model vehicles, the over-the-air software
update allows for automated highway
driving including lane changing with turn
signals, lane centering and breaking. Sim-
ilarly, the 2016 Mercedes E43, expected to
be released this summer, will be capable
of automated highway driving includ-
ing lane change, self-steering and speed
control, only requiring a human driver to