On the Defense of Self-Driving Cars

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Google will be launching a fleet of self-driving cars this summer, suggesting that the visions of Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World may be nearer than he conjectured. Indeed, self-driving cars will hit public streets this summer, indicating that the mass production and use of self-driving cars is not too far away. But the biggest hurdle facing the self-driving car is the limits of individual freedom and privacy.

Americans hold liberty and privacy dear to their hearts, and some consider these to be the quintessential values of American society. A car plugged into a public grid with the ability to drive itself could be interpreted as an infringement on human individuality, and personal freedom. The American automobile has even been considered a symbol of personal freedom by many poets, philosophers, and political theorists. But what if sacrificing that freedom could make auto-liability coverage obsolete?

An essay in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology urges future regulators to think about freedom, privacy, and liability implications, as a trinity of interlocking, coexisting tradeoffs. As automobiles become more and more automated, liability will steadily shift towards manufacturers and governments. The prospect of a self-driving car is desirable to America’s large middle class and the government that protects it, given that 13% of drivers are uninsured—a troubling statistic.

The debate between science and philosophy will continue to rage on as humanity moves forward into our 21st century. The hopes of most level headed academics, philosophers, and leaders of tech giants claim to aim for an equilibrium between sound ethical and social policies that facilitate the advancement of technology without bending progress towards a scenario involving a dystopia and eventual destruction.

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