Greg Walden Examines Legal and Ethical Ramifications of Driverless Cars for Corporate Counsel Business Journal

September 11, 2018

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Greg Walden, partner at McGuireWoods and senior advisor with McGuireWoods Consulting, recently discussed legal concerns, ethical considerations and policy around autonomous vehicles with the Corporate Counsel Business Journal.

In a Sept. 6 article, Walden broke down top legal concerns for corporate counsel, as well as legal responsibility if a two-car accident involves at least one autonomous vehicle.

In addition to legal responsibility, Walden also examined what ethical considerations go into programming driverless vehicles.

“If a nonautonomous vehicle is about to crash, must the autonomous one make the evasive maneuver because it cannot assume cooperation from the autonomous vehicle? These questions are fascinating but frustrating; there’s not a clear answer,” Walden said. “Manufacturers should not be blind to it, but this may be a matter of public policy. Whatever programming choices are made should be transparent.”

Finally, Walden gave an overview of current federal and state regulatory framework around autonomous vehicles, and provided guidance on policy questions companies seeking to deploy driverless cars should consider. At this time, the federal government has published only guidelines with regard to automation and autonomous vehicles. Some states have taken action on their own while they wait for a fully developed federal regulatory framework from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“The Federal Aviation Administration says you can’t fly an aircraft unless it is certified as airworthy. NHTSA is not leaning in that direction,” he said. “Bills moving through Congress would require manufacturers to provide safety certifications to the NHTSA, somewhat of a middle position.”

Walden added, “The feds will still, I think, stay in the driver’s seat with respect to the design and manufacture of driverless cars, with states relegated to rules of the road.”