Santa Clara University School of Law calls in experts to wrestle with legalities of ‘self-driving’ cars

Scholars at the Jesuit-sponsored Santa Clara University School of Law will be focusing their attention this Friday on a burning new issue in U.S. jurisprudence: the legal implications of ‘self-driving’ motor vehicles.

“Autonomous (self-driving) cars may seem as futuristic as condos on Mars, but in fact, they are here: Google, BMW and Volkswagen are among those getting attention for their pilot programs; Toyota unveiled an autonomous Prius at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show; and Nevada recently passed a law allowing autonomous cars on its roads (complete with a special driver’s license endorsement),” notes a Jan. 12 university press release. 

“But when it comes to legalities of these computerized wonders, questions far outweigh answers,” the news release continues. “For instance, if an autonomous car causes an accident, who bears legal responsibility — the manufacturer or the person in the ‘driver seat?’ If the driver of a self-driving car is drunk or texting away, will that still be illegal? How will insurance documents be crafted? And what other transportation law will need to be rewritten in order to make room on the road for autonomous cars?”

But not to worry. Santa Clara University School of Law has brought together what the press release calls “a group up of automobile experts and legal scholars” to tackle such questions at an all-day seminar on Jan. 20. The seminar is entitled “The Legal Implications of Autonomous Vehicles.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a group of legal minds sit down and think about this,” Dorothy Glancy, a professor of transportation and privacy law at Santa Clara University School of Law, was quoted as saying in the news release. “Without legal acceptance, we are not going to have autonomous cars.”

The seminar will be held at the Paul L. Locatelli Student Activity Center on the university campus from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students and $120 for the general public.

“The event, sponsored by the Santa Clara Law Review and Santa Clara University School of Law’s High Tech Law Institute, will feature dozens of speakers and panelists from government, academia and law firms,” according to the news release. “They will share publications, give presentations and take questions in what promises to be a lively day of exploration and debate.”



Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:15 AM By charlio
I guess I’m stupid. Why is this piece appearing in California Catholic Daily?

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:23 AM By JLS
Yeah, wait’ll you’re in a self driving car and some teenager at a computer hacks into the guidance system.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:54 AM By MacDonald
I doubt the Diocese of Mars will endorse the use of condoms: those visiting Mars should simply BEHAVE themselves! As for self-driving cars, the idea is too scary. Leave that nonsense to George Jetson.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:36 AM By Dan
This bowing to the great god technology make me uneasy, though I know nothing of these vehicles. Makes me think the Amish are on to something.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 11:00 AM By Maryanne Leonard
First the cars drive us, then we will grow perfect, wanted babies in plastic bags under laboratory supervision, putting an end to the abortion debate. Why drive ourselves, cook our own dinners, have our babies, or outsource to India when technology can take over our every endeavor? Just keep the electricity bill paid and the batteries charged, and you’re good to go.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 2:22 PM By Bud 
I am sure that the Santa Clara Jesuits et. al., can put on their “Professor from Salamanca” hats and solve the problem in 15 minutes. If not, call a world wide conclave of only the self proclaimed cream of the crop, Jesuits.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 2:45 PM By Camille
It’s in the CalCatholicDaily because this silly conference is being hosted by a supposed intelligent Catholic University. In this same ridiculous vein maybe Planned Parenthood will want to be there to discuss the use of privacy in having a sexual relationship while in an “autonomous driven car.” Maybe these cars should have automatic condom dispensers for “that” moment. Other passengers in other cars will have to honor a No-Peekie law.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 4:30 PM By charlio
Thanks, Camille. I’m still not sure I get it. I have seen discussions that seemed intelligent to me, about how new technologies often outpace legal & societal reactions to them. Guess I need to check between my ears some more.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 4:51 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
God help us! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:07 PM By Maryanne Leonard
NPR broadcast an interview this afternoon, several minutes in length, of a Stanford professor who was said to specialize in watching developments on the subject of self-driving cars. There was no mention of this forthcoming Friday’s conference on this subject, which will be held in Santa Clara, which is in the same county and within easy driving distance from Palo Alto, home of Stanford University. Guess this sort of development isn’t sufficiently interesting to him to mention while being interviewed about this subject and its status in this country, though he says it’s likely we will be seeing self-driving cars within the next 10 years. At the scene of an accident, I wonder with whom one exchanges contact and insurance information should the passenger be passed out drunk, too young, old or sick to converse, or otherwise incommunicado.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:17 PM By JLS
The topic is actually an important one for Catholics; however, like so many issues involving technology, the first Catholic intelligentsia to tackle these are the worldly minded ones. The whole problem is one which Maryanne provides a literary image of posted above. Bl John Paul II spent his entire philosophical life dealing with it, and his papacy conquering one of the forces promoting it. “It” is personhood. Those Catholics with their heads in the sand will not receive their microchip on their wrists, but elsewhere.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:13 PM By MacDonald
Amazingly, no one has yet brought up the Traditional Latin Mass. Perhaps the next conference in Santa Clara will suggest a digital way to celebrate the liturgy, with a video instead of a priest.

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:41 PM By JLS
MacDonald, did you read my post about the large video screen between the sanctuary and the pews? This was during a Mass time period on Sunday. This church has full glass doors which allow anyone driving by to see the altar. When I drove by … twice to make sure of what I saw … it was a huge image on a huge screen of a woman talking to an audience.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 10:53 AM By MacDonald
@ JLS: call me old-fashioned, but the idea of having a big video screen in church drives me crazy, too. Arg. Reminds me of a cartoon I saw in the paper this week: “Bobby doesn’t need to go to church — his phone has an app for that!” Arg.

Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:51 PM By JLS
Replacing the priest with a larger than life video screen would eventually require a refreshment stand as well. Whole thing could be a live action app symbolizing an hour in a real church.

Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 8:40 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
JLS, Would the Popcorn be fresh. Hmmm yummy! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 9:37 PM By JLS
Well, Kenneth, the horror story of popcorn is that it is probably now mostly genetically modified.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 5:41 PM By Abeca Christian
JLS is right, it is GMO. Don’t buy corn products unless they are organic and non GMO.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 9:53 PM By JLS
You gotta watch out for the butter too, since the feed the cows such bizarre and cheap junkfood these days.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 11:24 PM By Abeca Christian
Ya the butter I buy is organic or from cows not fed with hormones. My cousins make their own butter. As much as they tried teaching me how to make my own, I still keep forgetting how.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 11:25 PM By Abeca Christian
The title of this article is odd, so our comments are odd too but probably much better though. LOL

Posted Friday, February 17, 2012 5:06 PM By charlio
Stupid me again. KNXT, 2-17-2012. “Nevada became the first state to approve regulations that spell out requirements for companies to test driverless cars on state roads.”