This article was originally published by Martin banks sure Own fleet report, a publication that gives its readers the information they need to transition to the most fuel-efficient cars and trucks, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and diesel and gasoline engines advances.
Autonomy and personal responsibility
People driving under the influence are one of the most common causes of traffic accidents and deaths worldwide, second only to distracted driving. These tragic statistics fuel the fire, prompting automakers to create fully autonomous vehicles.
How do DUI laws apply if you are not actually the one driving the car? Let’s take a closer look at how DUI laws are likely to adapt as self-driving cars become more common.
First, briefly define the different levels of autonomy to better understand how they will impact DUI laws in the future.
- Level 0 represents the majority of cars on the road today with full control of the unassisted driver.
- Level 1 introduces minor forms of driver assistance, such as lane keeping and cruise control.
- Level 2 is where we find Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, offering partial driving automation, but the driver has yet to be ready to take over.
- Level 3 allows the vehicle to handle most of the driving, but still needs human assistance.
- Level 4 is almost completely self-contained, but it will likely still have a steering wheel.
- Level 5 is fully automated and requires no human intervention.
Definition of a DUI
Nearly one third of all traffic fatalities involve drunk drivers. How do states define what qualifies as a DUI?
DUI is a generic term, but it is not used universally. Some states or districts will use other acronyms like DWI – impaired driving – or OWI – while drunk.
The acronym varies, as do the definitions, but in general, driving a vehicle under the influence of any intoxicating substance, from alcohol to marijuana, prescription drugs to illegal drugs, constitutes a DUI. Drivers can even be charged with DUI when sitting in a stationary car with the keys in the ignition.
Navigate uncharted waters
As we enter the realm of self-driving cars, we are navigating uncharted waters, at least when it comes to charging someone with a DUI – at least once we achieve full autonomy.
Currently, with range 2 and 3, standard DUI laws will apply as the driver must be ready to resume driving at any time. Once we reach level 4 autonomy, things will get a little more confusing.
Level 4 means it will be harder to prove that someone was actually controlling the vehicle under the influence. It’s too early to speculate on how lawmakers will handle these cases, but the most likely scenario is that these vehicles will be fitted with sensors that detect when the driver’s hands are on the wheel.
If lawmakers can prove that the driver was controlling under the influence, even if the vehicle is autonomous, they will be able to create a DUI charging stick.
Once we hit range 5, that’s likely going to be a moot point as vehicles won’t be designed for human interaction beyond entering a destination. At this point, it’s no different from drinking in the back of a limo on the way to a party while the driver transports you safely to your destination. (Editor’s note: You might be breaking the law, but that won’t involve driving the vehicle.)
The future of self-driving cars
Whether we like it or not, self-driving cars are the wave of the future. It will be up to lawmakers to determine how they navigate these uncharted legislative waters as we work towards the fully autonomous vehicle we’ve dreamed of for decades.
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Published March 19, 2021 – 14:00 UTC