I’ve read a very interesting article about the insurance and liability aspects of robocars.
This post expands on a comment I posted on the author’s blog.
I think that the question of interaction of robocars with pedestrians, bicyclists and human motorists deserves deep scrutiny. As the author describes, a robocar is cautiously going to attempt to avoid collisions — but humans break laws, play bluff and take risks. That means, for example, that a robocar will stop for a pedestrian illegally stepping off the curb, or a car inching out from a stop sign, or a bicyclist riding against traffic — while a human driver might blow the horn and expect the pedestrian to retreat, the motorist to stop, or the bicyclist to dart into a parking space. A game of give and take, — or if you prefer, “chicken” — occurs in such situations — where both participants take stock of their ability to avoid a crash if the other keeps moving, and one or the other — usually the one who is breaking the law — gives way to the other. I see the potential for robocars to bring mixed traffic to a stop, because humans will outbluff them. Where does this lead? To robocars’ being allowed only on limited-access highways, where traffic conditions are uncomplicated? To traffic in urban areas being reduced to the speed of bicyclists, because robocars are more cautious about overtaking than humans are? To banning bicyclists, pedestrians and human motorists from roads where robocars are permitted to operate robotically?