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Casebook Credits History Find
The Law of Autonomous Vehicles
First published Aug 2020

Ed Walters - Georgetown Law

The invention of the automobile transformed the world – cars enabled commerce and mobility in ways previously unimaginable, and their manufacture created the “American Century.” Cars dictated the architecture of cities and defined culture – and law. Human-piloted automobiles are also unbelievably dangerous machines, killing about 100 people per day in the United States alone.


Autonomous vehicles promise to be just as important and transformative, and they have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives per year.  But states and the federal government are just beginning to understand self-driving cars and trucks, and automotive laws drafted in the early 1900s will not begin to address the challenges of machines that make decisions behind the wheel.


This course will examine whether or when we need new automotive laws to regulate these autonomous vehicles, or where it is more appropriate to reason by analogy and regulate these systems by existing statute, regulation, or common law. The course will examine emerging issues across the spectrum of tort law, criminal law, products liability, and data privacy. The class will not be a survey of existing law, but instead an examination of how to regulate emerging issues in law – how to extrapolate and reason by analogy, in AVs and beyond.