Law · Programming

The Legalist


Legalism: Excessive adherence to law or formula.

I’ve been thinking for a while about what traffic laws would be modified by a road system with only automated denizens.  I suspect that stop signs would go the way of the dodo bird.

In the interim there will be some teething difficulties.  First will be the difficulty of 100% legal adherence, such as occurred recently when a Google self-driving car was stopped for doing 24 MPH in a 35 MPH zone.  (I’ll note here that the officer did not write a ticket, and may have been “assisting” the driver by pointing out the speed.)

Another issue, is “excessive” adherence to laws.  A few days ago my wife and I were discussing whether an A-car would need to stop, or if a “rolling stop” would be acceptable – or legal.  With higher safe speeds, could a-cars go faster than the speed limit, or would they be limited?

Cruise control offers an interesting data point in that it is permissible in every car of which I’m aware to set the cruise control above the maximum legal speed in a jurisdiction.  I foresee automated cars determining the legal speed limit via the same GPS systems informing their navigation.

What other “legalism” issues might arise from A-cars?  Well there’s the obvious right on red rule requiring a stop first.  In other words, if a light is yellow, but you’re making a right, you usually shoot through, right?  Well, the A-car may be more legal.  Another author has shown that humans decelerate below the legal limit around off-ramps.  Automated cars would not, which may unsettle both their passengers, and any cars they are approaching.  Another time is when other drivers are not following the paint on the road.  This author has a great example in Moscow, where there were two lanes of traffic indicated by the road and there were three lanes that the cars were following.  A more common situation is one in which drivers leave the paint early to get into a turn lane that is about to appear.

Another issue is the “rules of the road” in which a driver is to avoid an accident, even if the drive puts the car where it is not normally allowed to go.  I haven’t even started talking about construction zones, where new “rules” supersede the normal ones.


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