Imagine – Part 2

By Jeff Barlow, Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

Part Two: Augmented/Self-Driving Vehicles

In Part One of this series, we talked about the growth of Mobility as a Service and how it is fundamentally and forever changing personal transportation. 

136_imagine2If/when Augmented Driving becomes more than a niche phenomenon, it will quite predictably accelerate the shift toward Mobility as a Service. For proof, look no further than Uber’s multi-million dollar investment in self-driving vehicles. Allowing users to summon up, and send away, cars at need reduces a large percentage of the need for a personally owned vehicle.

With the emergence of MaaS, the incidence of traffic violations can be expected to substantially drop. Add to that augmented and/or self-driving vehicles, and the drop dramatically increases. Why? Because all but an insignificant number of traffic violations performed by vehicles operating based on algorithms will result either from one of two causes: First, faulty/illegal instructions from the traveler; not misconduct by the driver. Second, from the traveler overriding the algorithm and taking manual control.

So, for example, if the traveler instructs the vehicle to exceed the speed limit, and if the vehicle’s algorithm permits such an override, while there may be a violation, it would not be a driving violation. And, it’s an interesting question whether we as a society would allow such an algorithm. And even if allowed, would we as a society NOT require that such a command be observable by law enforcement systems in real time, just as a vehicle’s motion may be permissibly observed in real time by law enforcement – on the ground, in the air, or through imbedded technology (cameras, sensors) along the road, or (most effective) transmitted from the vehicle itself?

Personally, I think you can expect fully autonomous vehicles sooner rather than later, although implementation will not be uniform nor global. “Low-hanging fruit” includes

Add to this mix the pressure from insurance companies (and maybe, later, legislative bodies) to either require or provide even more incentives for even greater augmentation, just as they have done with seat belts, ABS brakes, and air bags. In the trucking industry, for example, insurers are requiring installation of technology to monitor driver driving hours and mental acuity in accordance with new federal regulations as a requisite to writing policies for long-haul trucks.

In fairly short order, I think you can expect, at a minimum, price breaks for some or all of the following:

  • Speed governors (regulating maximum speed), possibly with context awareness e.g., What is the speed limit here? How fast is the surrounding traffic moving? What are the weather and surface conditions?.
  • Biometric driver recognition (face, voice, handprint, other) possibly connected to whether or not the vehicle will operate at all.
  • Driver physical competency evaluation, such as determining whether the driver is under the influence, fatigued, etc., again connected to whether the vehicle will operate.
  • Permission for always-on “black box” capability that can locate and track the vehicle in real time and/or be used to determine where the vehicle has been and what it was doing at any given time in the past.

More difficult to imagine, not for the technology, but for the politics, would be acceptance of both real-time and historical law enforcement monitoring of all vehicular activity as a requirement to use the public roads. The debate will occur. There is currently, of course, no right to not be observed while operating a vehicle on public roads. And, all vehicles must display a unique identifier (the license plate) while on the public roads. In some jurisdictions, opaque windows that interfere with law enforcement’s ability to see what’s inside the vehicle, are illegal.

In other words, real-time monitoring and control of vehicle driving is already here, and will continue to reduce the amount of driver-committed traffic violations. Will the “right” to take one’s chance that he/she is not being observed be deemed to outweigh the safety aspects of universal monitoring? The answer probably lies somewhere in between.

In any event, it’s hard not to predict a decline in traffic violations. Thus, fewer traffic court cases and less traffic fine revenue.

And, for the same reason, fewer traffic accidents. Which equates to fewer Personal Injury cases. A LOT fewer PI cases.

Coming in Part Three: Effects on Insurance and Personal Injury Cases; Technologies to Predict Outcomes

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