Guest Op-Ed: Do We Need to Upgrade from “Informed Consent” to “Informed Risk” with Autonomous Vehicles?
May 18, 2018|Gregory Rodriguez
Recent events, including the testimony of Facebook’s CEO on Capitol Hill discussing how consumer provided data is used for profit, the significant disruption to City of Atlanta services from a ransomware attack currently estimated to have economic impacts of near $3 million, and the first known fatality involving a self-driving vehicle, demonstrate the fascinating and eye-opening time we are living in, particularly when it comes to the continued integration of technology into our lives.
New innovations are quickly making their way into every aspect of our being (and commute) – from personal digital assistants like “Alexa” and “Siri,” to apps that bring services literally to our fingertips, to the ongoing deployment of self-driving vehicles. With the benefits, most tangibly in the form of convenience, that come from new technologies being rolled out what seems like daily, also come risks that are often little understood, or more accurately ignored.
The danger that consumers are not clearly consenting to conditions they have read and understand is a potential impediment to the continued adoption of new and larger innovations like self-driving vehicles, which are anticipated to collect large amounts of personal data from a “driver/operator/rider” (we are still working on those definitions). As we are seeing with the ongoing discussion around Facebook and its use of data for profit (disturbingly, to the surprise of many members of Congress), not clearly disclosing risks can lead to the boycotting of an innovation and a sentiment of mistrust towards technology companies.
For autonomous vehicles, the issue of transparency and informed consent is playing out through the recent fatality involving an Uber autonomous vehicle and at least 2 deaths to date from cars with Tesla “autopilot” engaged. Not to mention, the most recent self-driving vehicle accident involving Waymo. These incidents call into question the obligation of companies to accurately disclose to consumers the true capabilities of a vehicle being touted as “autonomous” – does the vehicle require a person to be ready to take back control of a vehicle if the autonomous system disengages or fails, or can a person enjoy a fully automated experience with the vehicle truly being able to monitor and engage in the complete operation of a vehicle? This distinction will also be an important part of determining future liability for accidents involving autonomous vehicles.
If mistrust grows around the use of data by companies or potential claims from an injury or death from using a private fleet operated self-driving vehicle is found to be “unknowingly” limited, we may experience a slowed adoption of new innovations or worse yet, such technologies that offer potential societal benefits, such as enhanced mobility for underserved communities, not coming to fruition.
Gregory Rodriguez is of counsel with Best Best & Krieger LLP. Based in the firm’s Washington D.C. office, he provides strategic information, policy insight and legal assistance to plan for and incorporate emerging transportation technologies like automated vehicles into communities. He can be followed via Twitter @smartertranspo.
The views expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Eno Center for Transportation.
September 29, 2023 | Kirbie Ferrell
September 29, 2023 - On September 26 and 27, the fourth annual MOVE America Conference was held in Austin, Texas.
August 31, 2023 | Glendedora Dolce
August 31, 2023 - Amidst a sobering backdrop, the article "Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths Among Children" delves into the distressing...
August 18, 2023 | Anusha Chitturi, Glendedora Dolce
August 18, 2023 - Road traffic fatalities in the United States increased at the rate of 3 percent annually between...
July 28, 2023 | Anusha Chitturi, Glendedora Dolce
July 28, 2023 - The United States has a notoriously high traffic death rate per capita among the OECD countries....
July 28, 2023 | Garett Shrode
July 28, 2023 - Over four years after the last efforts to enact legal authorization for self-driving cars went up...
May 12, 2023 | Garett Shrode
May 12, 2023 - On Wednesday, May 10, the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security under the House Committee on...
July 6, 2022 | Jonathan Hammond
July 7, 2022 - It's time for the public transport industry to begin to reflect on the tangible lessons that...
June 10, 2022 | Ethan McLeod
June 10, 2022 - The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing this week...
May 20, 2022 | Katie Donahue
May 20, 2022 - One year after the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, how has Congress addressed cybersecurity concerns in the...
May 20, 2022 | Paul Lewis
May 20, 2022 - We evaluate LA Metro's pilot program for a first-mile, last-mile mobility on demand (MOD) service with...
May 20, 2022 | Jeff Davis
May 20, 2022 - On May 16, the U.S. Department of Transportation solicited applications for $1 billion in grants for...
April 22, 2022 | Jonathan Hammond
April 22, 2022 - Wearing a mask and getting a vaccination can be as easy as buckling a seatbelt. However,...