The future legal shenanigans that will shift liability for pedestrian fatalities involving self-driving Ubers

This week, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle; in his analysis of the event, Charlie Stross notes that Arizona's laws treat corporations that kill people with considerably more forbearance than humans who do so, and proposes that in the near future, every self-driving car will be owned by a special-purpose corporation that insulates its owner from liability. Read the rest

GPS routing increases city throughput by shifting traffic jams onto residential streets

A trio of engineering researchers from UC Berkeley modeled the effect of heavy reliance on GPS routing on municipal road efficiencies and found that people who are GPS-routed are likely to move to surface streets and secondary highways when the main highways are congested; though this increases overall throughput in a city and reduces overall drive-time, it also creates heavy traffic on residential streets, effectively transferring traffic jams from highways to neighborhoods. Read the rest

Only Chinese companies will be allowed to map Chinese roads

Self-driving cars require incredibly accurate, up-to-date maps; in China, only Chinese companies will be able to make these maps. Nominally, this is about preventing espionage, but it also has the non-coincedental effect of forcing foreign autonomous vehicle companies to partner with (much more easily controlled) Chinese firms, a policy already in place for traditional auto manufacturing. Read the rest

Tim O'Reilly explains how self-driving cars will bankrupt Uber

Tim O'Reilly (previously) is my kind of technologist: someone who goes past the "is technology good or bad for us?" question and dives into the really meaty, important question, namely: "how can we make technology better for us?" Read the rest

An in-depth look at Castle, Waymo's fake city for testing self-driving cars

Alexis Madrigal got a chance to visit the fascinating town of Castle, a roads-only city constructed by Waymo for the sole purpose of developing self-driving cars. Read the rest

Lyft to challenge Uber with self-driving cars, launching first in Boston

We already know Uber's been investing millions of dollars in the future of self-driving. Now Lyft is making similar moves, including a partnership with Boston-based nuTonomy, a self-driving car startup founded by an MIT guy. Read the rest

Baidu to launch self-driving car technology project 'Apollo' in July

The Chinese tech firm Baidu said Tuesday it will launch a self-driving car technology in July. A first release will involve a restricted environment, but the company plans to gradually introduce “fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020,” Reuters reports. Read the rest

Securing driverless taxis is going to be really, really hard

Charlie Miller made headlines in 2015 as part of the team that showed it was possible to remote-drive a Jeep Cherokee over the internet, triggering a 1.4 million vehicle recall; now, he's just quit a job at Uber where he was working on security for future self-driving taxis, and he's not optimistic about the future of this important task. Read the rest

Game theory: pedestrians versus autonomous vehicles

Any well-designed self-driving car will be at pains to avoid killing people, if only to prevent paperwork delays when they mow someone down. Read the rest

The six official levels of autonomous vehicles explained

Self-driving cars can mean a number of different things, so the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted a zero-to-5 scale of the types of automation created by SAE International, with level zero being non-autonomous. Generally: Read the rest

Beyond the Trolley Problem: Three realistic, near-future ethical dilemmas about self-driving cars

MIT Professor Emeritus of Robotic Rodney Brooks has published a thought-provoking essay on the most concrete, most likely ethical questions that will be raised by self-driving cars; Brooks is uninterested in contrived questions like the "Trolley Problem" (as am I, but for different reasons); he's more attuned to the immediate problems that could be created by selfish self-drivers who use their cars to get an edge over the people who drive themselves, and pedestrians. Read the rest

Tesla autopilot warns of accident about to happen to the cars in front

In this footage from Europe, the autopilot on a Tesla warns driver Frank van Hoesel of an accident about to happen. He doesn't even realize why his car is braking suddenly until he sees the crash occur—forty yards away. Read the rest

Car Wars: a dystopian science fiction story about the nightmare of self-driving cars

Melbourne's Deakin University commissioned me to write a science fiction story about the design and regulation of self-driving cars, inspired by my essay about the misapplication of the "Trolley Problem" to autonomous vehicles. Read the rest

Tesla announces full self-driving hardware on all models

Tesla released a video of a commute from home to office, including parking as a demonstration of its fully self-driving hardware. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons.

He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself." Read the rest

Messy: When automated anti-disaster systems make things worse, and what to do about it

"Undercover Economist" Tim Harford (previously) has a new book out, Messy, which makes a fascinating and compelling case that we are in real danger from the seductive neatness of computers, which put our messes out of sight, where they grow into great catastrophes. Read the rest

US endorses self-driving cars, with a catch: Feds want to control tech approval, not states

Federal auto safety regulators today said that self-driving cars “will save time, money and lives,” but also sent a clear signal that they want the power to inspect and approve technology before it hits the highways, rather than each U.S. state setting its own safety standards.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on a press call today that a new federal premarket approval system "would require a lot more upfront discussion, dialogue and staffing on our part."

The government's statement today is big news for Uber, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley firms pouring millions of R&D dollars into figuring out how to swap human drivers for smart machines, or at least allow us to share control in “semiautonomous” setups. Read the rest

How self-driving cars could make everything worse, and what to do about it

The promise of self-driving cars is to take our vehicle fleets from 5% utilization to near-100% utilization, reducing congestion, parking problems, emissions and road accidents. But what if the cheapest way to "park" your autonomous vehicle is to have it endlessly circle the block while you're at work? What do we do about the lost jobs of bus-, truck- and cab-drivers? How will we pay for roads if gas-tax revenues plummet thanks to all-electric fleets? Read the rest

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