Paved new world: Self-driving cars come factory-equipped with complex issues

CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1 SEPTEMBER 2016, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

If you’re stopped by the police in your self-driving vehicle, would you need to show a driver’s license? This is not a riddle, it’s a legitimate question to be debated by lawmakers when they begin to address the reality of a world where not all cars and trucks have humans at the wheel.

Yes, the driverless car is coming — much sooner than you think. Ford says that within five years it will have a fully self-driving vehicle without steering wheel, gas or brake pedal for sale to ride-hailing companies. Uber is ready now to pick up passengers in Pittsburgh with an experimental version of an autonomous vehicle that uses a human driver as backup. GM, Toyota, Tesla, Google, Nissan, VW and maybe Apple all are feverishly at work on the driverless car.

As much as the robot-mobile conjures images of a weird distant future (jetpacks!), the technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s time to go beyond the gee-whiz factor and contemplate the vast social, economic and legal changes this revolution will bring.

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