The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School is a leader in the study of the law and policy around the Internet and other emerging technologies.
In June, CIS reported Nevada's enactment of AB 511, which directs the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to "adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada." Pursuant to this mandate, the DMV has now issued draft regulations. After holding a series of public workshops and hearings (not yet posted) and submitting its proposed regulations for legislative review in accordance with the Nevada Administrative Procedure Act, the DMV could issue final regulations as early as March 2012. [Update: The final regulation is available in the Nevada Register. I have offline copies of the drafts.]
According to the Nevada Legislature's website, AB 511 "revis[ing] certain provisions governing transportation" passed the Assembly (36-6) and the Senate (20-1) and was signed into law by the governor this week. Although I am aware of no law that prohibits driverless cars, this appears to be the first law officially to sanction the technology. Specifically, the law provides that the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles "shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada." The law charges the Nevada DMV with setting safety and performance standards and requires it to designate areas where driverless cars may be tested. (Note that this could take some serious time: Japan, for instance, has been promising standards for personal robots for years and has yet to release them.)
Is it lawful for a car to drive itself? In the absence of any law to the contrary, it should well be. A new bill is working its way through the Nevada state legislature that would remove any doubt in that state. A.B. 511 directs the Nevada Department of Transportation to authorize autonomous vehicle testing in certain geographic areas of Nevada. Should vehicles meet Nevada DOT standards, they would be permitted to "operate on a highway." The bill defines not only autonomous vehicle, but artificial intelligence as well. AI is "the use of computers and related equipment to enable a machine to duplicate or mimic the behavior of human beings." An autonomous vehicle uses "artificial intelligence, sensors, and [GPS] coordinates to drive itself." To be clear: autonomous vehicles are not yet the law of the land in Nevada. This bill must pass through two committees and receive a hearing before it can be voted on and become law. Some preliminary thoughts on the bill in its present form follow.
The term “hacking” has come to signify breaking into a computer system. A number of local, national, and international laws seek to hold hackers accountable for breaking into computer systems to steal information or disrupt their operation. Other laws and standards incentivize private firms to use best practices in securing computers against attack.
In February, a South Korean woman was sleeping on the floor when her robot vacuum ate her hair, forcing her to call for emergency help. It may not be the dystopian future that Stephen Hawking warned us about – where intelligent devices “spell the end of the human race” – but it does highlight one of the unexpected dangers of inviting robots into our home.
"These are the kinds of questions that obsess AI reseachers. “We’ll have to come up with new rights and norms; human rights won’t do,” University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, who specializes in cyberlaw and robotics, told me in an e-mail."
""We are becoming more familiar with robots, but their sophistication has not changed much," assures U.S. robotics law and policy expert Ryan Calo. In fact, since the original coinage of the term 'Artificial Intelligence' more than 60 years ago, robotics technologies have progressed at a snail's pace; "Today, robots are about as smart as insects," confides Calo. "
"We’ve got cars without drivers out there. Companies are testing drone delivery. Specialized robots are being used inside and outside factories. Ethical, societal and legal concerns surrounding automation and robotics abound. So a new Brookings Institute report says it’s time for a federal commission for robotics.
"The idea for a federal robotics commission came out of workshop of a paper that author Ryan Calo (who will, in the interest of full disclosure, be a participant in a Future Tense event this October) was presenting at Fordham Law School. Following the discussion, Calo decided to treat the idea of a new commission to deal with robotics and its importance as a standalone subject.
"Why does the United States needs a new federal commission focused solely on understanding our robot future? The real question is, why don't we?
Ryan Calo is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, and in a new paper out from Brookings he makes the case that a new Federal Robotics Commission would help make sense of the various technology applications that separate human agency from execution. "
"In an email, Lin writes: "If you can see that some accidents are unavoidable, even by robotic cars, then manufacturers need to make some decision in those scenarios. Any time we make a judgment to hit 'x' in order to avoid 'y', we're making a value or ethics decision. Manufacturers would probably love to have their cake and eat it too - to create autonomous machines but to not take responsibility for them. But that's just wishful thinking.""
"“It’s the fear of robots,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School who studies driverless cars. “There’s something scarier about a machine malfunctioning and taking away control from somebody.”"
"At the conference, cyberlaw professor Ryan Calo discussed his forthcoming paper "Robotics and the New Cyberlaw." Internet law defined the vanguard of cyberlaw issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Calo argues that the next wave of legal showdowns will relate to robotics, which have an altogether different set of essential qualities when compared with the Internet. Robotics blurs the line between people and instruments. More so than any other technology in history, robots feel to us like social actors.
"The sociopolitical ramifications are astonishing when the future is examined in reference to emerging technology. For instance, Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, will be introducing a paper entitled “Robots and the New Cyberlaw” in which he will detail distinctive ethical quandaries segregated from automation and will cover embodiment, or physical extension into the world as well as mobility, emergence and a machine’s capacity to learn, and the most evocative, social meaning in reference to artificial intelligence."
"In that regard, Ryan Calo (a law professor at University of Washington, a member of the WeRobot2014 organizing committee and a major intellectual in the law and technology field) has a new paper at this conference, “Robots and the New Cyberlaw.” It lays out better, I think, than any other currently what makes “robots” distinctive in terms of how law, regulation, and ethics need to frame of them.
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"On the other hand: even algorithms can make mistakes. You will eventually written by humans. And just legal texts can be difficult in a formalized language to translate. They are, says Woodraw Hartzog, just not made for it to be automated. And they are not made to be enforced to one hundred percent."
October 27, 2011
Stanford Center for Internet and Society
John O. McGinnis
Lawrence B. Solum