Autonomous Driving, Standard


By Daniel Healow

As in many areas where technology has disrupted the status quo, the availability of automotive safety systems has been generally dictated by the speed of its technological development. However, as these technologies are made available to the public, the law is often called upon to create minimum safety regulations on the back end.

As demonstrated at CES and the Detroit Auto Show in early January, automakers are rapidly increasing their research and development spending and highlighting their autonomous vehicle breakthroughs as they jockey for position in the race to bring a consumer product to market.

In some regions, the general public is already participating in early stage self-driving trips, but autonomous vehicles remain firmly in the product development testing phase across the industry. Some industry observers predict a market for these vehicles to emerge “in a noticeable way” by 2020, but less clear is when they will saturate the driving market. While it’s impossible to predict the exact timing, looking to past adoption of safety technologies may offer some evidence that could indicate an imminent mandate based on patterns of federal regulation. Continue reading

Autopilot Crashed My Car. Who’s Liable?

TeslaBy Mackenzie Olson

Recently, numerous drivers have claimed that their Tesla vehicles have crashed while in autopilot mode. Perhaps most notable was a crash that occurred in Florida, when a 2015 Tesla Model S in autopilot mode failed to apply the brakes and subsequently crashed into an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer. The driver of the Tesla was killed.

Traffic fatalities are commonplace. In 2014, there were 29,989 motor crashes in the United States, from which 32,675 deaths resulted. This, however, is the first fatality that has occurred in a Tesla while it operated in autopilot mode. However, Tesla autopilot has been used in over 130 million miles, and on average, a fatality occurs every 94 million miles in the United States and every 60 million miles worldwide. Such facts can seem to beg the conclusion that Tesla autopilot renders its vehicles safer than those that are manually operated.

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Revisiting the Definition of “Disruptive Innovation” and Why Uber and Tesla Don’t Meet it

UntitledBy Christian Kaiser

In 1995, Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School, coined the term and theory “disruptive innovation.” This term has since become so popular in the tech startup world that most entrepreneurs use it in their pitch or when describing their business. The phrase “tech startup” is almost synonymous with disruptive innovation. However, as Prof. Christensen and his coauthors explain in their new article, many people, including top executives, are not using this term correctly and are misidentifying “disruptive” businesses. In his new article, Prof. Christensen explains the necessary conditions of “disruptive innovation” and applies them to Uber and Tesla, ultimately finding that neither is disruptive. In this blog article, I briefly address why it is important for lawyers working with technology to understand the theory of “disruptive innovation.” Continue reading

A Glimpse into the Future: Driverless Cars Have Arrived

teslaBy Naazaneen Hodjat

To much fanfare, Tesla Motors announced the release of its Autopilot version 7.0 which effectively allows its Model S to use a “combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and data to automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic.” Tesla’s Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, describes the Autopilot program as a “profound experience for its drivers” —one that “when owners try it out and see the car drive [by itself] they’re blown away.”

The Tesla Autopilot program aims to increase the driver’s confidence behind the wheel by reducing the driver’s workload and helping the car avoid hazards—significantly improving driver safety. Its Autosteer technology allows for hands-free and pedal-free driving on the highway. The new program, however, does not read traffic lights or poorly marked roads and is programmed to relinquish control back to the driver if it loses confidence in its ability to drive safely. The Autopilot also contains an Auto Lane Change feature—the driver must simply engage the turn signal and the Autopilot will move itself over to the adjacent lane when it is safe to do so. Finally, the program has an Autopark function that enables the car to scan the surroundings of a parking spot and parallel park itself. Although the Autopilot program allows Tesla sedans to steer and park themselves, Musk warns that Tesla drivers are expected to stay engaged while driving. In fact, owners are instructed to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. Tesla cautions drivers against trusting its Autopilot program too much and reminds drivers that they are still responsible. Continue reading

DIY Teslas With Open Sourced Patents

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 9.38.34 PMBy Amy Wang

Good news, environmentalists and car enthusiasts alike! Tesla Motors is opening up its patents to the public! Okay, so it may not be as simple as a how-to guide on building your own zero emissions electric vehicle, but, this is a huge step for the open source movement and the advancement of EV technology.

CEO, Elon Musk, announced via blog post on the Tesla website that the company hopes to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport” by pledging that they “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use [their] technology.”

Musk followed up his written announcement with a conference call to shareholders and the press. He explained that the convoluted patent system inhibits innovation in an especially tough market. Electric cars make up less than 1% of total vehicle sales in the United States. “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.” By sharing its technology, Tesla hopes to incentivize other motor companies to help develop the infrastructure needed to make electric vehicles appeal to consumers. For example, potential drivers need to be persuaded that charging stations are as readily available to accommodate their electric cars as gas stations are for other vehicles. Continue reading