Self-Driving Cars Raise Questions About Who Carries Insurance

NPR, 3 APRIL 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

An accident last month in Tempe, Ariz., involving a self-driving Uber car highlighted some novel new issues regarding fault and liability that experts say will come up more often as autonomous vehicles hit the road.

And that will have an increasing impact on an insurance industry that so far has no road map for how to deal with the new technologies.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns the insurance giant Geico, told CNBC in a February interview: “If the day comes when a significant portion of the cars on the road are autonomous, it will hurt Geico’s business very significantly.”

That would seem to make sense. If humans aren’t driving the cars, who needs a car insurance policy?

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President’s proposed budget cuts to education could impact SC schools adversely

SOUTH CAROLINA RADIO NETWORK, 21 MARCH 2017, FEAT. PROF. DEREK BLACK:

President Donald Trump’s budget plan would be felt deeply via program cuts and eliminations proposed for education in South Carolina.

University of South Carolina education law professor Derek Black told South Carolina Radio Network that the President’s budget does cut money for some education-related programs that would benefit students in poorer districts. “21st Century Learning Center Programs support after-school, before-school and summer school programs and would see funding cuts,” Black said. “ Well, we have a lot of low income students here. These programs are crucial to giving those kids a safe place to go before and after school.”

Black said the cuts to general education funding would adversely impact South Carolina because the state is still funding public education below pre-recession levels. “So we’re still in the whole when it comes to school funding and this new budget just makes matters worse.”

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Hiring off-duty police officers a common practice

THE ROANOKE TIMES, 19 MARCH 2017, FEAT. PROF. SETH STOUGHTON:

One security service that many police departments offer, but that often goes unnoticed, is off-duty work.

Officers direct traffic near construction sites. They greet people coming in and out of bars. They walk the Berglund Center’s concourse during concerts.

They offer additional security at stores, serving as a deterrent to would-be thieves. Last month, when someone photographed a uniformed Roanoke officer outside Wal-Mart on Dale Avenue Southeast apparently sleeping in his patrol car and posted it on Facebook, people chimed in with a range of responses. Some expressed sympathy that officers work long hours, others questioned whether he was on duty — and, if not, what were the policies on uniforms and vehicles?

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Same-sex legal groundbreaker: Judge says Rock Hill couple married in S.C. for decades

THE HERALD, 19 MARCH 2017, FEAT. PROF. MARCIA ZUG:

Debra Parks wanted to be treated the same as anybody else by the courts. At 62, she’s disabled, and split from her partner of almost four decades. She filed a lawsuit because she wanted her relationship, which ended last year, to be considered a common law marriage under South Carolina law.

Parks is gay. But until 2015, same-sex marriage was illegal.

“I was in a same-sex relationship for all those years,” Parks said. “We owned a house together. We were a family, even when society didn’t accept it.”

Bill Nemitz: Police body cameras are useful tools, but they can distort the truth

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, 26 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. SETH STOUGHTON:

Three cheers for Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.

“I am saddened, I’m disappointed, and I’ll tell you I’m disgusted by any use of a tragedy to further some kind of political agenda around body cameras,” an angry Sauschuck said Tuesday – one day before a protester at City Hall called him “murderer” to his face.

The source of the chief’s frustration: painfully predictable demands for body cameras on Portland police officers – right now – after last weekend’s fatal police shooting of Chance David Baker in the Union Station Plaza parking lot on St. John Street.

According to police and eyewitnesses, Baker, 22, brandished what looked very much like a rifle. It turned out to be a pellet gun.

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Mail-Order Marriages in California

C-SPAN, 9 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. MARCIA ZUG:

Professor Marcia Zug talked about her book Buying A Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches, in which she discusses how 19th century California gold rush pioneers encouraged single women to move west and marry the state’s bachelors with promises of protecting women’s rights. However, Professor Zug argued that when brides increasingly came from Asia, America’s acceptance of mail-order marriages evaporated.

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California’s Finally Ready for Truly Driverless Cars

WIRED, 11 MARCH 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

IF YOU LIVE in California, chances are you’ve spotted a self-driving car—some 271 companies are testing tech in the Golden State, and they’ve running around all over the place. But those sightings are never quite as futuristic as they could be. These cars aren’t really driverless, and they’re not for public use. State law requires a trained human sit behind the wheel, and restricts the technology to testing only.

Now, Silicon Valley’s home state is ready to toss the bag of flesh and bones and replace it with a big sack of cash. The California Department of Motor Vehicles today proposed new regulations that will finally prepare for the move from testing to commercialization. That’ll make for even better photo ops if you see one, and eventually some interesting ride-sharing experiences—definitely no unwanted chit chat if a robocar picks you up.

California’s got good reason to welcome this tech. Some 3,000 people die on its roads every year, and self-driving cars could eliminate the human error that causes 90 percent of crashes. They could make more people more mobilereduce emissions (maybe), and boost the economy.

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The Way We Talk About Autonomy Is a Lie, and That’s Dangerous

FORTUNE, 8 MARCH 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

No matter what you’ve been told—and told, and told again—our self-driving future is a long and uncharted ways off. Pretending otherwise might have dire consequences. Here’s an unvarnished look at the current reality.

You can be forgiven for thinking that autonomous cars, the all-seeing, self-driving, accident-free future of human transportation, have already arrived on a road near you. After all, the media have been writing headlines to that effect for years now: “Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future is Here” (Wired, January 2012); “Like it or Not, the Autonomous Car Is Here—Almost” (Autoweek, May 2013); “The Driverless Car Comes to Washington” (The Washington Post video, August 2014); “Driverless Cars Are Already Here” (TechCrunch, June 2015); “Driverless Cars Are Here—Now What?” (The Hill, September 2016); “Self Driving Cars Are Here, Are You Ready?” (Tech.Co, December 2016).

And so on.

But this is, at best, only partially true. While a number of automakers have engineered vehicles that can pilot themselves with an ability unfathomable even a decade ago, after months of interviews with the people shaping the self-driving car industry it’s clear that our autonomous future—the one where you take a nap as your vehicle whisks you to your destination in comfort and safety—is not in any real sense here now, nor around the corner, but likely decades away. All claims to the contrary are either based on misunderstanding or are intentionally misleading.

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Sheriff: Local judge too soft on criminals

WCNC (UNION COUNTY, S.C), 28 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. KENNETH GAINES:

The Union County, South Carolina, Sheriff says an area judge is too soft on criminals– and that Sheriff is calling out a judge, saying he repeatedly hands down light sentences.

A woman who buried her newborn baby in the backyard; a man who shot a puppy 18 times with a BB gun. Both convicted, and both eventually given probation.

NBC Charlotte uncovered a pattern that has many in our area disturbed and calling for change.

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When driverless cars crash, who gets the blame and pays the damages?

THE WASHINGTON POST, 25 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

If anything about driverless cars can be considered an old riddle, it is this one: The car is driving itself down a residential street when a woman pushing a baby stroller suddenly enters a crosswalk. Unable to stop, should the car’s computer opt to hit mother and child, or veer off to strike a tree, almost certainly killing its passengers?

That macabre scenario has been fodder for ethicists almost since the prospect that cars might drive themselves first entered the horizon. It also, however, provides a second riddle: Regardless of the choice made by the car’s computer, who pays for the damages?

The car owner? The company that built it? The software developer?

Those questions are being debated nearly everywhere that lawyers and insurance brokers meet these days. While state governments and the courts ultimately will decide them, many have been addressed in a new study by one of the preeminent legal authorities on autonomous vehicles.

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