Should drunk drivers be charged with DUI in fully autonomous cars?

Enlarge / The self-driving car from the Volkswagen Group was developed for autonomous driving. (credit: Volkswagen Group)

In some Australian states, it’s illegal to start a car with the intent to put it in motion while you’re drunk. The rise of autonomous vehicles complicates things though. Sure, you’re three sheets to the wind and want to put the car in motion, but you’re unlikely to hurt anyone by directing a car to taxi you through the Taco Bell drive-through a couple of times before you pass out in a cloud of tortilla dust.

An independent panel pulled together by the Australian government released a report this week trying to hash out the difficulties that governing bodies will face in rewriting laws for humans engaging self-driving systems. That panel, called the National Transport Commission (NTC), wants to develop a clear set of laws by 2020, and its paper (PDF) solicited feedback from key industry players as the panel moves forward.

Though it may seem obvious that a drunk person should be allowed to be taxied home by a fully autonomous car, the question is less clear if you have to determine just how autonomous an autonomous vehicle needs to be for a drunk person to operate it. The government should want drunk people to engage a high-level autonomous driving system if the alternative is driving themselves home, but if they’ll be penalized for being drunk while they’re “in control” of an autonomous vehicle, uptake of self-driving systems may be slow.

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Source: Ars Technica

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