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Self-Driving Cars Pose Big Legal Questions

What kind of insurance does a self-driving car need? Can a police officer pull one over? While technological challenges to the new autos are being overcome, legal ones remain far from resolved.

What’s the Latest Development?

Last month, Google said its self-driving automobile project had logged 200,000 miles without an accident. While today’s automakers already use sensitive sensory technology to assist drivers and in some cases, correct them, Google’s project goes a step further. It aims to make human drivers into permanent passengers, combining the semi-autonomous cars with conventional vehicles, driven by people, on conventional roads. Besides some sticky technological problems, there remain serious social and legal obstacles.

What’s the Big Idea?

What kind of insurance do self-driving cars need? If there is a collision, who is liable? Can a police officer pull over a semi-auto auto? Can the officer search the vehicle? Gary Marchant, director of the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Arizona State University law school, said the liabilities car makers face for self-driving cars would be astronomical: ‘Why would you even put money into developing it?’ he asked. ‘I see this as a huge barrier to this technology unless there are some policy ways around it.’

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