(Transcript)

Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon, my name is Cindy Speaker, I have with me today David Daggett, Attorney at Daggett Shuler Law, and he’s gonna talk with us, primarily about the topic of autonomous cars. You’ve probably heard the phrase, but do we know what it really is and what’s on the horizon for that? So, David, thanks for being with us today.

David Daggett:  Yeah, thank you Cindy, thanks for having me. This is an exciting topic.

Cindy Speaker: It really is. It really is.

David Daggett:  Yeah, I used to watch the Jetsons when I was a little kid, are you old enough to have watched the Jetsons?

Cindy Speaker: Absolutely.

David Daggett:  Okay.

Cindy Speaker:  Absolutely.

David Daggett:   I don’t know if kids today watch the Jetsons, but people flying around in spaceships and-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: … taking the spaceships to work and that sort of thing. It looks like the North Carolina legislature thinks that’s just around the corner.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s amazing. But let me go backwards, what exactly is an autonomous car? Because I’m not really sure, are you drive and/or stop it, or how involved is the driver?

David Daggett:  Well it’s interesting because we now have legislation that defines what an autonomous vehicle is, our North Carolina Legislature has passed a statute regarding the use of autonomous vehicles. This statute goes into effect December 1, 2017, that’s this year.

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett:  So, an autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that’s capable of controlling every aspect of vehicle dynamics on the roadway, so, it can do everything. Now-

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett: Yeah, the statute that goes into effect has some specific criteria, it has to be able to handle all dynamics of driving. It has to remain on the scene and call for help in the case of an accident or something like that. So, it’s got a definition of a number of things it can do. But, basically, an autonomous vehicle under the statute has to be able to do everything all by itself. Back to my friend-

Cindy Speaker:  That’s incredible.

David Daggett:   … Back to my friend George Jetson, so, yeah, the North Carolina Legislature has passed this statute, so we are now regulated in our use of autonomous vehicles.

Cindy Speaker:    That’s amazing. Now, when is that going to go into effect? What kind of cars are we going to have to buy to enable that?

David Daggett:   Well, the statute goes into effect, December 1, 2017, however, currently, there are no vehicles in existence that completely meet that criteria, so, again, this is an unusual situation, where we have legislation that covers an issue that we don’t know when it’s going to happen.

Cindy Speaker:   Boy, that’s for sure.

David Daggett:  But at least we’re covered when it does happen. But it is interesting, and as we know, Amazon.com is, they are testing different ways to deliver faster and more efficiently. Rider share services like Uber and Lyft, are experimenting with ways to have autonomous vehicles deliver people. We have Google and Apple, we hear reports that they are all working on autonomous vehicles, so, even though our legislatures may have gotten a little ahead of themselves, and are a little futuristic, it probably is on the horizon somewhere.

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett:  Now, our statute is pretty interesting, under our statute, if you have an autonomous vehicle, you do not have to be a licensed driver, to operate the vehicle, which is a little bit of a misnomer, because you don’t operate an autonomous vehicle.

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett:  And, you can ride in an autonomous vehicle alone, as long as you are 12 years old or older.

Cindy Speaker:  12 years old?

David Daggett:  12 years old. So, an autonomous vehicle, remember the definition, it handles virtually every aspect of vehicle dynamics with no human input whatsoever, so our statute provides that, you know, you can stick your 12 year old in your autonomous vehicle and drop them off at school.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s unbelievable, but, you know, you mentioned before, the idea that it would stop if there was an accident or something like that, so it’s interesting to me, that the Legislature would pass that, because a 12 year old, in an autonomous car that’s involved in an accident, I don’t think has the maturity to deal with that. Are you saying that this autonomous vehicle literally would take care of every aspect of that vehicle, calling for help?

David Daggett: Yes.

Cindy Speaker: Calling for help.

David Daggett:  Yeah. Yeah, that’s a requirement on the statute.

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett:  Is that the car has to be capable of doing that, so-

Cindy Speaker:   That’s incredible.

David Daggett:  … not only does it have to drive itself, but if there’s a problem, it needs to call for help.

Cindy Speaker:  Interesting.

David Daggett:  Yeah, every aspect of vehicle dynamics.

Cindy Speaker:   Well, let me ask you this, because I had heard, I think in Pittsburgh, I’m not sure, where they were testing some autonomous cars, but there was the opportunity for the driver to override the system, so I guess that’s not a fully autonomous car?

David Daggett: Well, yeah, and I’m not an engineer, but the Society of American Engineers, they have different levels of autonomous vehicles.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  And to meet our statutory guidelines, it’s gotta be SAE, Society of American Engineers, Level 4 or 5-

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  … to meet those guidelines. What’s being experimented with in Pittsburgh, and I believe it’s Uber, who’s doing that-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett:  … and one of the Universities there, maybe it’s Carnegie Mellon, I’m not sure, one of the Universities working with it. They’re working with geo-fencing technology and an autonomous vehicle, that would be a Level 4 SAE vehicle-

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:   … that’s getting a little technical.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: But that would qualify as an autonomous vehicle, interestingly, under the new statute, remember it’s gotta be able to handle every aspect of dynamics of the vehicle, is that local municipalities are prohibited from passing any additional laws regarding autonomous vehicles. You know, it will be interesting to see with this geo-fencing technology, and some of the new technology as it progresses, you know, some of these technologies, I know the name, but I don’t know the intricacies enough to pass that along-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: … but, you know, the geo-fencing, we’re hearing a lot about, with Google-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett:  …and-

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  … search engines and ad placement-

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  … and that sort of thing. There’s no-

Cindy Speaker:  Why don’t you explain that? Geo-fencing.

David Daggett: Well, I’m not sure I can, I’m not an expert on that, other than Google uses geography to define the space-

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  … within which, it provides content to users.

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett:  And so, you program a geofence so content only goes to Winston-Salem North Carolina, or only goes to Forsyth County in North Carolina, those sort of things. What they’ve done in Pittsburgh, is they have geofenced an area to test an autonomous vehicle, so they are using the same technology that search engines are using, but they are using it to communicate with autonomous vehicles within a limited geographical range.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  That may be the first thing we see.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  Our new statute could apply to an autonomous vehicle that’s geofenced, let’s say, near our School of Science and Math-

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  … who may be at the cutting edge.

Cindy Speaker:  Interesting.

David Daggett:  It could be that sort of thing that we first see, but, when I first saw the statute, I just giggled a little bit, that we have a statute that covers something that does not even exist right now.

Cindy Speaker:  That really is amazing.

David Daggett:  And that 12 year olds can ride in a vehicle by themselves, and that no driver’s license is needed. Another interesting thing is, if the autonomous vehicle violates any statutes, the registered owner is responsible for that statutory violation.

Cindy Speaker:  Well, that doesn’t make sense.

David Daggett: Well, does it or doesn’t it? I don’t know, it certainly could open a can of worms.

Cindy Speaker:  Yes, it certainly could. So you’re saying, it doesn’t … I guess you have to do that, so basically, if the autonomous car violates a speed limit, you’re saying that the driver would get, or the person in the car, would get the violation-

David Daggett: No. No.

Cindy Speaker:  … when they weren’t even driving?

David Daggett:  No.

Cindy Speaker: No?

David Daggett:  The registered owner-

Cindy Speaker:  The registered owner?

David Daggett:  … would get the ticket-

Cindy Speaker:   That’s right, because we’ve got 12 year olds in the car.

David Daggett:  The registered owner might not even be in the car, so, yeah, no, it’s interesting. I think it’s a fascinating thing and it’s a good lesson on the law, that one of the things that the law does, in the law, it changes and it adapts to society-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett: … where society is-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett:   … and the law has to do that-

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett:  You know, everybody asks me, and you know me, I’m in the middle of the road politically. But they ask me regarding the Constitution, am I a strict constructionist, or do I believe in [inaudible] of the Constitution and I said cause, yeah, I believe in the constitution, but I don’t think they ever thought about autonomous vehicles with 12 year olds riding around.

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  The law has to adapt, to current and now even future circumstances, as a way to give society a way to organize itself-

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett: … and rules to live by, and so, while we’ve joked a little bit about our Legislature and this new statute that doesn’t apply to anything yet, the flip side is, kind of proud of them in being ahead of the curve on this-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett: … in starting to define what are going to be accepted principles in our society-

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  … when autonomous cars get out there.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:   Having this statute out early certainly gives the ability of ongoing debate, clarification, refinement, so that when we do have these autonomous vehicles, society is better ready to handle the various issues that we know are gonna come from having them on the roads.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah, very interesting. What about some of the dangers you foresee?

David Daggett:  Well, you know, in the history of machines, machines always have problems of some sort, and, it’s hard for me to believe that these machines aren’t gonna have problems in some way. You know, you take, and you know, I like our automotive manufacturers, I have nothing against them, but how many times have you heard of somebody that got a car that’s a lemon? Or you have something with your car, that, you know, you have just an ongoing problem that you’re trying to troubleshoot and take care of.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: Well, if that affects an autonomous car that’s out on the road, you know, I think there could be some problems.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett:  Obviously, a fail safe that the automakers are, obviously ahead of me on thinking on this, but a fail safe has to be, that when there’s a problem the car pulls over and shuts down, not just keeps rolling.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: But it’s gonna be interesting to see how all of this unfolds.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. You know, I can’t-

David Daggett:  It’s coming one way or another.

Cindy Speaker:  It is. You know, one thing … without getting too deep, one of the things that’s crossing my mind, you’ve talked in the past about some of the current drive by different corporations and things to require arbitration clauses, I wonder if we’ll see any of that? Where the manufacturers will require an arbitration clause, which I’m sure, you know, personal injury lawyers would fight vehemently, and I believe should. But that, that would be … I just had a thought about that, that would not be good, but I wonder if they’ll do that-

David Daggett: Yeah-

Cindy Speaker:  … in light of the fact that there might be a push to try and sue the manufacturer for the accident as opposed-

David Daggett:  That’s a whole other kettle of fish, that would be a long program to get through.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  Basically, what we’re seeing is corporations trying to insert arbitration clauses in every contract that they enter into, the reason is, is because it’s easier and better for the corporation, not necessarily, easier and better for the individual.

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah.

David Daggett:  So, if you’re looking after individual rights, you have to be very careful-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:   … about imposing an arbitration system that protects our civil rights.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah.

David Daggett:   That’s a very difficult thing to do, so, yep.

Cindy Speaker:  David, why do you think they passed his legislation now, because as you said, even though it’s, in my mind it does look good for the North Carolina legislature, that they’re ahead of the curve, on this, but why would they do this so soon, is there any reason?

David Daggett: Well, maybe they are trying to avoid the hot button issues, like taxes and health care and all the other things that are going on, and this is one that was relatively easy, with not any opposition, because, it doesn’t even exist yet?

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: And, you know, it gets us forward thinking. North Carolina-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  … has become a technology state-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: … and, you know, if we’re going to get autonomous vehicles on the road, if we’re gonna have companies geo-fencing and testing autonomous vehicles, we want to have a statutory framework in place, so that North Carolina can be at the leading edge of that curve.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: So I think that’s great then.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s great.

David Daggett:  Yeah.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. The only thing in that legislation that I question is the age requirement.

David Daggett:  Yeah, that was a little bit of a head scratcher for me, you know, is the autonomous car also a, you know, a babysitter and a chauffer service?

Cindy Speaker:   Right.

David Daggett:  You know, those sort of things.

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett: But, you know, that’s-

Cindy Speaker:  Like in-

David Daggett:  … it’s George Jetson. It’s the Jetsons.

Cindy Speaker:  It’s like instead of putting the iPad in front of the kid, you just put them in an autonomous car and send them out for a couple of hours.

David Daggett:  Yeah.

Cindy Speaker: I assume there’s some way the parent is gonna program this car, I don’t know, I guess it’s all … we’ll wait to see.

David Daggett:  Yeah, we’ll see-

Cindy Speaker:  So, the next question is, where can we get these, they sound great?

David Daggett:  Yeah, none exist right now.

Cindy Speaker:   Oh.

David Daggett:  This vehicle that meets the statutory guidelines-

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah.

David Daggett: … does not currently exist.

Cindy Speaker:  Interesting.

David Daggett:  There are some limited tests going on, cars that are getting close to meeting the statutory definition, but as of right now, this vehicle doesn’t exist.

Cindy Speaker:  So, currently, there’s no, even for a limited version, like they’re testing out in Pittsburgh, so, for right now, for the average person, are you saying there really is no way to get your hands on one of these?

David Daggett:   Yeah. It doesn’t exist.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay. Okay.

David Daggett:  It absolutely does not exist.

Cindy Speaker: Very interesting.

David Daggett:  Right. Right.

Cindy Speaker:  But, we’ll have to talk again when this, this comes to fruition, which I would guess is gonna be a long time. I can’t wrap my head around this to tell you the truth.

David Daggett:  No. No, no, no, I can’t either and the predictions I’m seeing is automakers saying 2021 at the earliest.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  If that’s the earliest, you know, before it becomes, you know, regular in society, I mean, I look at things, how long did it take us to get just back up cameras in most vehicles?

Cindy Speaker: Right. Yeah.

David Daggett:  I mean, it took 15 years for that to happen.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  Now, technology is moving faster and faster, it’s also gonna be very expensive, so there’s gonna be a financial barrier, so, I, you know, this isn’t on the near horizon-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett:   … but at some point it’s coming.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Yeah. Well David relative to the idea of driving in traffic and things like that, if someone were to have a question, how can they reach your office in regards to a legal issue?

David Daggett:   They can reach us online at DaggettShulerLaw.com or we’ve got a great friendly staff at, 336-724-1234.

Cindy Speaker:  You definitely do.

David Daggett:  Yep.

Cindy Speaker:  Well listen, thanks for being with us today.

David Daggett: Okay. Thanks for having me, talk to you soon.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  Bye-bye.

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