The introduction of self-driving vehicles carrying only passengers has the potential to create significant societal benefits by reducing the necessity to own a car. However when I wrote my first blog on the subject here in January something told me the whole subject is not without controversy, writes Karen Bright, Head of our Litigation.
The Law Commission, the body responsible to form the legal framework for autonomous vehicles, reported to The Sunday Times that such vehicles may ‘struggle to recognise dark-skinned faces in the dark’ because facial recognition software may be less accurate at detecting ‘non-white and non-male faces’.
It added that those with disabilities are also at risk as the systems may not have been trained to deal with the full variety of wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
In their consultation document that I referred to in January the Law Commission stated: “When we consulted on these issues, several developers argued that it would be impossible to ensure that autonomous vehicles always treated everyone equally.”
The Department for Transport has predicted that by 2035 a quarter of new cars sold in the UK will either require no human interaction at all, defined as ‘level 5 automation’, or will be capable of handling most situations on their own, with the driver able to sleep but to remain on standby to take over if needed, defined as ‘level 4 automation’.
Reported here, the feminist Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women, has highlighted the fact that crash tests are largely conducted with male mannequins, based on the body weight of an average American male from the mid-1970s. Women are 47 per cent more likely than a man to be seriously injured, and 17 per cent more likely to die in a comparable accident.
“The last thing we need is the next generation of Mondeo Man being a racist, misogynist self-driving automobile. These technological hurdles need to be overcome before drivers can take their hands off the wheel,” Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association, told The Times.
According to the Eastern Eye website the Equality and Human Rights Commission has observed that any advancement that puts certain groups of people at a disadvantage is not an advancement, but a setback for equality and human rights.
Legislation is not yet set in statute – it’s due in 2022 – and already it’s contentious.
The above is accurate as at 28 April 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.