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In Defense of the 'Driver-in-Command'-What Regulators and Courts Can Learn From Aviation as Cars Begin to Drive Themselves

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

By Justin Strochlic,Patton Boggs  

The scene is a crowded supermarket parking lot on a busy Sunday afternoon. The pavement is a swirl of traffic—the rattle of shopping carts, customers hustling to and from the store, drivers slowly patrolling, searching for empty parking spaces. Out of the store steps a man bending slightly to clutch the hand of his toddler, a full bag of groceries cradled in his other arm. They make their way across the crosswalk, then down a row of parked cars. What happens next takes only a few seconds: a quart of milk topples from the grocery bag, the man instinctively bends to try and catch it—misses—the carton splits across the asphalt and milk explodes. Momentarily distracted, his grip on his child's hand loosens and she breaks free, darting only a few feet—and directly into the path of an SUV that is backing out of a space. The SUV's brakes slam and the vehicle stops, the distance between the vehicle's rear bumper and a potential tragedy measured in under an inch. The scenario is so commonplace as to be clich

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