Smart Cars: Coming to a Showroom Near You

The New York Times this week had an article on smart cars and how one will "soon" be in a showroom near you. It quotes Dr. Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist who heads up Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab, as saying, "Within five years, itâ''s totally feasible to build an autonomous car that will work reliably in several limited domains."

Furthermore, the article says, "In 20 years, Dr. Thrun figures half of new cars sold will offer drivers the option of turning over these chores to a computer, but he acknowledges thatâ''s just an educated guess. While he doesnâ''t doubt cars will be able to drive themselves, heâ''s not sure how many humans will let them."

It will be interesting to see what happens when the first smart car crashes into one driven by a plain old human driver and results in a severe injury or death. Will the smart car's software be blamed? Will the argument be that the human driver has to be at fault since the smart car is assumed to be more carefully driven? And will the case be argued by "smart lawyers," a term that seems somehow oxymoronic to me?

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