INVERSE INNOVATION, 7 FEBRUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:
In 1913, New Jersey became the first state to issue driver’s licenses. They were a big hit with the public. “Many letters of congratulation have been received by the department, and not one of condemnation,” Job H. Lippincott, the state’s motor vehicle commissioner, told reporters at the time. “I confidently believe that other states will follow New Jersey’s lead, and that the results will be fewer accidents and better road conditions.”
Licenses soon became the standard, and were for more than a hundred years. But it looks like they too might become irrelevant: If your car can drive itself, why do you need a license? In October, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced that it won’t require drivers licenses for self-driving cars if the federal government deemed them safe enough.
“If there is no driver, there is no need for a driving license, just as the passenger in a taxi needs no license to get a ride,” Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor in the School of Law at the University of South Carolina, tells Inverse. “The relevant state law questions are whether an automated vehicle requires a human driver, who that driver is, and what she must do and may not do.”