The National Academies

NCHRP 20-06/Topic 21-01 [Final]

A Look at the Legal Environment for Driverless Vehicles
[ NCHRP 20-06 (Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $60,000
Research Agency: Dorothy J. Glancy
Principal Investigator: James B. McDaniel
Effective Date: 9/9/2014
Completion Date: 9/9/2015
Comments: Completed. Published as NCHRP LRD 69.

Sometime within the next decade, driverless vehicles will join conventional vehicles, operated by human drivers, on the roads of the United States. How many people will decide to forego human driving for driverless vehicles is a matter of wide speculation. Many drivers will likely stay with conventional cars for a time. After all, given advancing technology, in the near future conventional vehicles will be highly automated, capable of limited self-driving, partially autonomous, and probably connected. Nevertheless, even if driverless vehicles are adopted only gradually and partially, their introduction onto the highways still will have numerous legal ramifications.

How soon and how smoothly driverless vehicles merge onto United States roads and highways will depend, in part, on how the legal system resolves the many legal issues implicated by these vehicles. Driverless vehicles will inherit a framework of laws designed for conventional vehicles. Some states already have begun to make minor modifications to this framework to account for the unique capabilities and concerns associated with driverless vehicles. In the future, these intersections of the law and driverless technologies will grow increasingly numerous and complicated.

               This report has been prepared to assist policymakers in anticipating, working through, and resolving the legal policy issues that may be associated with driverless vehicles. It provides policymakers with an introduction to how civil and criminal liability may adhere to driverless vehicles, the implications of these vehicles for privacy and security, how these vehicles are likely to become subject to and potentially alter prevailing automobile insurance regimes, and other related topics.

Status: This Report has been published as Legal Research Digest 69.


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