Imagine – Part 3

By Jeff Barlow, Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

Part Three: MaaS and its Effects on Insurance and Personal Injury Cases; Technologies to Predict Outcomes

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.

In Part Two of this series, we looked at augmented driving and self-driving vehicles and their effect on the volume of traffic violations.

To start, consider that 94 percent of all traffic accidents result from driver error. Insurance companies are aware of this fact. So are the companies moving to develop self-driving cars. Over a year ago, Volvo declared it will assume 100 percent liability for any accidents or injuries caused by one of its vehicles while operating in fully autonomous mode; the other players (car manufacturers and makers of autonomous driving systems) are following suit.

As I noted in an article awhile back,

Of course, the manufacturers will tack the liability insurance cost onto the vehicle cost, right?

Well, maybe so; but that doesn’t mean what you might think. The average vehicle lifetime cost for liability insurance is in the neighborhood of $10,000. But, the car manufacturers don’t figure it that way. Instead, they look at what they expect the assumption of liability to cost them.

 In their risk analysis, the key piece of information is how much of the financial cost insured by that $10,000 per vehicle is based on driver error. The answer, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is … 94 percent.

 The manufacturers are betting that their cars can do better than that – a lot better. Six percent of $10,000 is $600. Then take out the necessity for insurance companies to sell policies, collect premiums, process claims, and provide a return to shareholders from the original $10 grand

So, the real number looks like something less than $600. Indeed, based on this type of analysis, buyers of self-driving vehicles might well expect significantly lower cost of ownership than with driver-driven cars. Basically, there will be a lot less risk and a lot fewer intermediaries.

The manufacturers are going to be the insurers; and they are betting they won’t be making big PI payouts very often. If this bet is even partly right, it will fundamentally change the insurance industry. It’s also likely to change the courts’ case mix and volume.

Computer Based/Computer Augmented Prediction of Case Outcome Approaching 100% Accuracy

137_imagine3If you watch any TV, you have seen the ads for IBM’s Watson. That’s just one of the manifestations of how far along the expert systems curve we are. Currently in areas as different as medicine and chess, in the ranking of successful diagnosis/prediction/performance capability, humans come in third. Computer systems (such as Watson) come in second. Yes, better than humans. In first place, though, are humans working WITH tools such as Watson.

The results of Artificial Intelligence systems to predict outcomes in the legal realm have shown predictability success rates exceeding those of experienced attorneys and/or judges.  And these systems are in their infancy.

Consider the following case types, and the impact if parties (or potential parties) knew in advance that they had essentially no chance of success:

  • Small Claims
  • Traffic Violation
  • Misdemeanor
  • Felony
  • Family Law
    • Child Custody
    • Support
    • Property Division
  • Personal Injury

It’s not a big stretch to foresee low- or no-cost apps that, given the correct “framing” of the case and facts, will provide all but certain predictability in many, many cases.

The key, of course, will be in the discovery. In some cases, legally trained help may be a requisite for getting the best prediction. In others, with very straightforward facts, there may be minimal need to consult a legal expert.

Once again, though, as people are able to see whether filing or defending a case have any realistic chance of success, filings would decrease and actual trials would become even more rare. Not to zero, (hope springs eternal) plus, as we know, clients routinely ignore the advice of attorneys in this regard. But in many areas, particularly involving pro-se litigants, expect filing and trial numbers to decline.

The Challenge

Go back to the “Imagine” categories and try to visualize court management, assuming these changes came to pass.

What would change in my court if ____

  • Revenue from minor traffic and/or parking fines is cut 50-90 per cent?
  • Filings of cases involving traffic violations drop, again by 50-90 percent?
  • Filings of auto-based personal injury cases drop by 50-90 per cent?
  • And of those filing, less than 20 percent go to trial?
  • Parties were able to ascertain (sometimes with the assistance of lawyers, sometimes without) the estimated outcome of cases with a likelihood of 95 percent or more in three quarters of all cases, and to accordingly plead, settle, or not even file?

Then, consider that there is a very great likelihood that the LARGEST changes are not on the list. After all, twenty years ago no one had heard of the Internet, so it was not included in anyone’s predictions of the future. Just over ten years ago, no one outside of developers (and Star Trek fans) even imagined the iPhone. The term “social media” probably conjured up thoughts of People magazine. Five years ago, few people had heard of “shale oil,” and fewer still assumed that gasoline would sell for under $2.50 a gallon.

So, what’s the elephant in the room that we’re not seeing today? As The Moody Blues would say, if you know, please tell me. Whatever it is, it will make its presence felt pretty soon.

Meanwhile, imagine…



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

Imagine – Part 1

By Jeff Barlow, Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

Part One: Mobility as a Service

135_imagine1Let’s imagine, if you will, a court in the future. Pick your own timeline for the advent of each of the futuristic “advances” proposed below. Every one of them is already under way. Granted, some of them are still in the early prototype stages, but most are fairly far along; some are already implemented in other government and private sector entities.

Ask yourself the question:

What would change in my court if ____

  • Revenue from minor traffic and/or parking fines is cut 50-90 percent?
  • Filings of cases involving traffic violations drop, again by 50-90 percent?
  • Filings of auto-based personal injury cases drop by 50-90 percent?
  • And of those filing, less than 20 percent go to trial?
  • Parties were able to ascertain (sometimes with the assistance of lawyers, sometimes without) the estimated outcome of cases with a likelihood of 95 percent or more in three quarters of all cases, and to accordingly plead, settle, or not even file?

How do these things happen? Consider some of the following developments.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

Remember when the cost of getting entertainment from a TV consisted of buying the TV and antenna? True, it was expensive, but you only paid once. Now consider how much you pay every month for TV. That’s Entertainment as a Service. You pay for personal communication through your cell phone bill; that’s Mobile Connectivity as a Service.

What Uber, Lyft, and similar enterprises offer is Mobility as a Service. The big driver (no pun intended) here is that, next to the home, the vehicle is generally a person or family’s biggest expense. There’s the cost of the vehicle, the cost of the fuel, the cost of the insurance, and the cost of storage (garage at home; paid parking at work or elsewhere) just to name a few expenses that go with vehicle ownership. Worst of all, the asset – the vehicle – that’s costing all that money sits idle between 70 percent and 95 percent of the time, during which, of course, it has to be stored.

Thus, the financial incentive for individuals living in urban areas to divest themselves of cars – or use them a lot less – when possible is great. In urban and many suburban areas, this divestiture is already becoming and will continue to become even more attractive.

The limitation on most forms of public transportation (buses, rail lines, etc.) until now have been:

  • The need for the rider to go to where the transportation loads and unloads; and
  • The need for the rider to conform to the transportation system schedule.

MaaS changes that dynamic. The question becomes service level – what will the user pay to receive a given level of service/flexibility.

Just as Napster changed fundamentally and forever the business model for acquiring music, Uber, Lyft, and the other early players in MaaS are fundamentally and forever changing the model for personal transportation. Even if Uber and/or Lyft fail to survive – as Napster failed to survive – the change will be irreversible.

Coming in Part Two: Augmented/Self-Driving Vehicles – How this technology introduces new legal questions. 


Change and Continuity


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Given the eclectic mix of disciplines and emphases involved, including  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), sociology, history, psychology, ergonomics, and art, to name a few, architects quite naturally have an almost unique perspective on the subject of Change and Continuity. And that perspective turns out to be highly relevant to the theme of this December’s e-Courts 2016 Conference; namely, how courts can deal with the accelerating rate of change for which technology is a major causal factor.

Recently, I had the opportunity at a party to chat with a young graduate student studying to become an architect. My young friend has no formal legal training; but does have a solid undergraduate background in architecture, in addition to his current graduate studies. I mentioned a piece I wrote a couple years ago  about the interest of architects in how to design for the courthouses of the future.

As it happens, my young friend himself has an interest in and has done some work regarding the architecture of courthouses. He shared with me that he had recently authored a paper in which he presented a pretty harsh critique of one of the relatively new (within the past ten years) courthouses nearby. I asked him, in layman’s terms, what he saw as the problem.  His response, I believe, highlights an important principle that those of us involved with court technology should – but do not always – keep clearly in mind.

The shortcomings, he said, were not at all functional. As an office building, the courthouse was fine. The problem, he said, was that it was really just that: An office building. It could have housed any office-centric business. To an observer who had no idea what the building was, there was nothing to indicate, internally or externally in its architecture, that it was a courthouse.

That comment surprised me more than a little bit. Not because I disagreed with it (I know that courthouse); but because he, as an architect, thought it important.

I generally have to “tone down” my evangelical impulses to try to explain what I see as the fundamental power of the concept of an independent, robust judicial system. When I can’t contain those impulses, I at best bore, and more often probably irritate people by pointing out that there are really, really good reasons why judges typically sit higher than everyone else; why everyone rises when the judge enters; why only those “admitted” or with permission may “pass the bar”, and so on. But I went through the Law School Indoctrination; I don’t usually encounter non-lawyers or non-court folks who really give those things much thought.

Well, it turns out architects (at least some of them, including my friend) understand that the design and architecture of a courthouse has an importance beyond basic functionality. There is an importance in having people feel, however subliminally, that the courthouse is an institution of justice, solemnity, fairness, and truth, critical to the well-being of a free society.

I hope we folks who bring and work with technology in the courts make it a point to keep these values in mind. I think of the number of times that I have dealt with, discussed, or done business with technology providers who, however experienced in their own domains, have little or no experience in working with courts. At first, THEY JUST DON’T GET IT. But there it is: Courts ARE different.

As I participate in “Futures” discussions and planning, I find one exercise particularly worthwhile in this regard. Futures planning naturally attempts to predict what will change. But it helps to also identify what WILL NOT change. In the future there may be hover cars and controllable weather; but couples will still meet, fall in love, and try to live happily ever after. Teenagers may communicate with their friends through electronic tattoos; but they’ll still be terminally embarrassed by their parents.

All information may some day be digital; all communication may be wireless and instantaneous. But there will still be need for a strong judicial system; and the technology we bring must support that institution.







The Art and Folly of Prediction

Go to any court conference these days and you’ll find that a main topic, if not THE main topic, is “change.” In my previous post, I discussed my sense that the rate of change occurring in the courts surpasses almost all current expectations. A part of me hopes I’m wrong. However, I’m keeping that part of me well away from my wallet.

What this means to making predictions about the future of the courts is that it’s far less likely to be anywhere near as correct as predictions from 1960 could have been for the year 2015. Historically, virtually all attempts to predict the futunwo xanderre err on the side of being way too conservative. In 1960, no one was predicting most of the things that define our world today, such as instant world-wide communications; immediate access to virtually all facts, written information and other forms of content; and the ability to store, access, and interpret all that information, just to name a few.

Nevertheless, there are some extremely valid reasons for looking toward the future and making predictions. That plans will have to change and adapt is no reason not to have plans. Indeed, the reverse is true: the more that change is inevitable and unpredictable, the more important it is to put significant effort into making the best predictions possible and making plans for dealing with them.

Therefore, in a demonstration of my complete fearlessness of being completely wrong in public, in my next few blogs, I plan to offer predictions of what may lie on the path ahead for the courts. With each will come some thoughts as to the role and effect Electronic Content Management might have should such changes come to pass.

Here are a few ground rules for long-range prediction.

  • Choose what is meant by “long range.” Is it five years? Fifty years? In the nineties, 25-30 years was standard for long-range planning. Moore’s Law suggests that technology alone will advance through 15 doublings, which is a factor of over 30,000 times what it is today, in 30 years.
  • Be aggressively original. You’ll still end up being too conservative.
  • Try not to bet the farm.
  • Be strategic. A classic organizational strategic map includes not only the enterprise, but suppliers, customers, competition, distributors, market, regulators and business environment. So, what changes will be affecting courts’ suppliers, such as the Bar, Law Enforcement, etc.? How about its customers, including what kind and their demographics?
  • Identify what is highly UNLIKELY to change. Death and taxes are good bets, and both have implications for court futures planning. There are others.
  • Eschew wishful thinking. Note that this rule does NOT mean to be pessimistic. It DOES mean to avoid assuming that things the courts hold dear – a public desire for impartial resolution of disputes or guaranteed respect for judges, for example, will endure like the Law of Gravity.
  • Really look at trends. DO NOT assume they are fads that will slowly abate. Rather, assume they will accelerate.
  • Assume that everything will scale to infinity. How much information storage space will a court need? How long will court information have to be kept? How secure does court information have to be (in all dimensions)?

Applying these principles, the next several posts will identify what I believe are “megatrends” that will affect the courts well into the future and beyond. Each one has implications across many dimensions.

So off we go – perhaps over the deep end; but hey, it ought to be fun. The trend to be examined in the next post is

Access to specialized knowledge, information and expertise is heading toward ubiquity.

Stay tuned.