EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 7, 2013

Self-driving car may have mind of its own


We are a country of litigants, and already there is an embryonic driverless-car bar. Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, has co-founded the Legal Aspects of Autonomous Driving center at Stanford University.

As Calo told The New York Times:

"The first time that a driverless vehicle swerves to avoid a shopping cart and hit a stroller, someone's going to write, 'Robot car kills baby to save groceries.' It's those kinds of reasons you want to make sure this stuff is fully tested."

If the car is so smart, why doesn't it run over the shopping cart? Happens all the time in supermarket parking lots. And why are the hypothetical victims always choirs and babies? Why not, as an example, have a driverless car plow into a group of al-Qaeda operatives?

The real danger of driverless cars is not simultaneously arriving at the same parking spot or the computer taking offense at a car refusing to give the right of way where three lanes merge to two.

The auto designers want to use the cars to collect all kinds of information about your driving habits, purchases and destinations, meaning somebody may have to explain why the car was parked in front of an hourly-rate motel for three hours.

You shrug sheepishly and explain, "What can I say? Our minivan has been seeing a Chevy Camaro on the side."

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com.

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