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Bryant Walker Smith


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Bryant Walker Smith is an assistant professor in the School of Law and (by courtesy) in the School of Engineering at the University of South Carolina. He is also an affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, chair of the Emerging Technology Law Committee of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, and a member of the New York Bar. Bryant's research focuses on risk (particularly tort law and product liability), technology (automation and connectivity), and mobility (safety and regulation). As an internationally recognized expert on the law of self-driving vehicles, Bryant taught the first-ever course on this topic and is regularly consulted by government, industry, and media. His recent article, Proximity-Driven Liability, argues that commercial sellers' growing information about, access to, and control over their products, product users, and product uses could significantly expand their point-of-sale and post-sale obligations toward people endangered by those products. Before joining the University of South Carolina, Bryant led the legal aspects of automated driving program at Stanford University, clerked for the Hon. Evan J. Wallach at the United States Court of International Trade, and worked as a fellow at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He holds both an LL.M. in International Legal Studies and a J.D. (cum laude) from New York University School of Law and a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Prior to his legal career, Bryant worked as a transportation engineer. Bryant's publications are available at newlypossible.org.



Source: Tesla

Tesla can do better than its current public response to the recent fatal crash involving one of its vehicles. I would like to see more introspection, credibility, and nuance.

by   -   October 31, 2017

My previous post on the House and Senate automated driving bills (HB 3388 and SB 1885) concluded by noting that, in addition to the federal government, states and the municipalities within them also play an important role in regulating road safety.

by   -   October 27, 2017

Bills being considered by Congress deserve our attention—but not our full attention. To wit: When it comes to safety-related regulation of automated driving, existing law is at least as important as the bills currently in Congress (HB 3388 and SB 1885). Understanding why involves examining all the ways that the developer of an automated driving system might deploy its system in accordance with federal law as well as all the ways that governments might regulate that system. And this examination reveals some critical surprises.

How Governments Can Promote Automated Driving recommended that governments conduct “legal audits” to “identify and analyze every statute and regulation that could apply adversely or ambiguously to automated driving.” Automated Vehicles Are Probably Legal in the United States attempted this nationwide, and now the authors of Georgia’s HB 248 have produced a bill that (while not perfect) reflects a thoughtful effort to do the same in that state.

Source: Uber
Source: Uber

Uber is testing its self-proclaimed “self-driving” vehicles on California roads without complying with the testing requirements of California’s automated driving law. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles says that Uber is breaking that law; Uber says it’s not. The DMV is correct.

by   -   September 26, 2016

self_driving_Robocar_autonomous_car_spedometer_accelerate_needle_speed

Michigan’s Senate are reviewing several bills related to automated driving. SB995, 996, 997, and 998 are now out of committee, and SB 927 and 928 are not far behind. These bills seem to be a mixed bag. Critically, they are in desperate need of clarification followed by thoughtful discussion.

Editor’s note: Please note that this article refers to the versions that came out of the senate before moving to the house, where they have been slightly modified.

by   -   September 21, 2016

The US Department of Transportation is enthusiastically embracing automated driving, saying that self-driving vehicles are coming in some form (or many forms) and that the agency can play a role not only in supervising but also in assisting this transportation transformation.

by   -   January 12, 2016

In the spirit of the New Year, and especially in the wake of California’s draft rules for the (theoretical) operation of automated motor vehicles, I offer two resolutions for any serious developer of an automated driving (or flying) system.

Photo source: Wikipedia [Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson) CC BY-SA 2.0]
Photo source: Wikipedia [Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson) CC BY-SA 2.0]

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported on several past crashes involving automated vehicles. (Per SAE Standard J3016, I use the term “automated vehicle” instead of “autonomous vehicle” or “self-driving car” or “driverless car.”) A few thoughts.

Tesla Motors autopilot (photo:Tesla)
Tesla Motors autopilot (photo:Tesla)

An interesting article in last week’s Wall Street Journal spawned a series of unfortunate headlines (in a variety of publications) suggesting that Tesla had somehow “solved” the “problem” of “liability” by requiring that human drivers manually instruct the company’s autopilot to complete otherwise-automated lane changes.

(I have not asked Tesla what specifically it plans for its autopilot or what technical and legal analyses underlie its design decisions. The initial report may not and should not be the full story.)

For many reasons, these are silly headlines.

Unfortunately, the reality that automated vehicles will eventually kill people has morphed into the illusion that a paramount challenge for or to these vehicles is deciding who precisely to kill in any given crash. Although dilemma situations are relevant to the field, they have been overhyped in comparison to other issues implicated by vehicle automation.

Despite the popular belief that research vehicles are consumer-ready, the path from research to production is long—and yet alternative deployment models will blur testing and operation in a way that merits more contextual regulation.

by   -   February 7, 2014

Auto_cars_highway

Photo:  Osvaldo Gago

SAE International‘s On-Road Automated Vehicle Standards Committee, on which I serve along with experts from industry and government, has released an information report defining key concepts related to the increasing automation of on-road vehicles.

by   -   February 7, 2014

car_crash

 

Source: Wonderlane.

Some ninety percent of motor vehicle crashes are caused at least in part by human error. This intuitive claim is a fine place to start discussions about the safety potential of vehicle automation. (It is not an appropriate place to end these discussions. After all, humans can be amazing drivers, the performance of advanced automation systems is still unclear, automated vehicles can be misused, and automation shifts some error from driver to designer.) And since the claim is often made without sufficient citation, I’ve compiled several relevant sources.