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Monday, December 01, 2014

The Concretization of Law

In recent decades, progress in artificial intelligence has been widely considered disappointing. The tide may have changed, however. Reasonably good voice recognition software is now widely available. Websites like Facebook and Google can translate a snippet from a foreign language, at least in a pinch. And facial recognition is surprisingly accurate. Now, increasingly autonomous vehicles appear to be on the horizon. 

In an admittedly speculative portion of a recent paper, I argue that such technologies, especially autonomous vehicles, may lead law to "concretize" by which I mean that it will become more clearly expressed and more transparently applied. The law might concretize because rules for autonomous entities have to be described with some precision. We cannot so easily rely on the ability of computers to understand human attitudes and conventions. But if we can develop self-driving cars that recognize pedestrians, road debris, and traffic signs, the cars can surely recognize that it is generally permissible to drive a few miles-per-hour above the posted speed limit.

A more significant push to concretize may emerge from corporations that design self-driving cars. They will fear the accident liability from even de minimis vehicle infractions, like driving a little bit above the speed limit. So the law may concretize as corporations push for convergence between laws on the books and the laws that we are expected to follow. More concretized speed limits, for example, may be somewhat faster than those we have now but with more strict enforcement around the limit.

After my article was published, Google announced that it has programmed the autonomous vehicles it is testing to go up to ten miles-per-hour above the speed limit. I can certainly believe that it is sometimes safer to exceed the speed limit, but it is still surprising that a corporate juggernaut would program its cars to so easily break the law. We'll see, though, what happens when autonomous vehicles become more mainstream. I suspect that there will still be a push to make speed limits more transparent to facilitate compliance by autonomous vehicles.

(This post is adapted from "Will There Be a Neurolaw Revolution?".)

Posted by Adam Kolber on December 1, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Permalink


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