What do the laws against driverless cars look like?

A few people have asked me this question, here is one example, from Falls Church City:

No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon the streets of the city without giving full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle.

Of course that wasn’t intended as a law against driverless cars per se, but that would be its practical effect.  Ask yourself the following question: let’s say you sat in the back seat, singing rap songs with your shirt off, while the computer piloted the car flawlessly.  In a 35 mile per hour zone, the car would go exactly 35 mph and you would smile and wave — with both hands — at each police officer you passed.  For effect, you could stick your two feet out the window as well.  How long could you go before they pulled you over?  How far could you get?  When would you get your car back, with computer of course?  How would they respond if you asked: “Officer, please show me where in the books this is illegal?”  In which state would that question go over best?  Worst?

Liability and public opinion issues loom larger still.  The driverless car, if it proves feasible, is most likely to come first to a smaller, higher-trust nation such as Denmark.  In some countries, if the government announces “X is safe” people believe “X is safe.”  The United States is not one of those countries.

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