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Selected works by Bryant Walker Smith on the Law of the Newly Possible and Legal and Policy Aspects of Automated Driving

Model Laws

  1. Model State Automated Driving Law
  2. Model Federal Automated Driving Law
  3. Poster of the Model Automated Driving Laws

Scholarly Articles

  1. Automated Driving and Product Liability, 2017 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1 (2016), This article focuses on one cyberphysical domain — automated driving — to methodically analyze the so-called liability problem. It considers how automated driving could affect product liability, how product liability could affect automated driving, and how each could advance or impede the prevention of injury and the compensation of victims. The article concludes that the current product liability regime,

while imperfect, is probably compatible with the adoption of automated driving systems. These systems, when introduced, are likely to be substantially safer than human-driven vehicles. Because driving decisions will shift from human drivers to automated systems (and their designers), a larger share of the crashes that nonetheless occur will implicate product liability law. This means that, in comparison to the automotive industry today, the automated driving industry will likely bear a bigger slice of a smaller pie of total crash costs. Under conservative assumptions, these costs are large—but not extraordinarily so.

  1. The Trolley and the Pinto: Cost-Benefit Analysis in Automated Driving and Other Cyber-Physical Systems, Tex. A&M L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017), Automated driving has attracted substantial public and scholarly attention. This brief Article describes how that attention has brought new fame to a classic philosophical thought experiment (the “trolley problem”), critiques how this thought experiment has been applied in that context, proposes a more practical extension of that experiment based on risk rather than harm, notes that this extension may still involve programming value judgments, argues with reference to the Ford Pinto debacle that these judgments could inflame juries or the public at large, and emphasizes the need for appropriately focused public discussion of these issues. The article may be especially relevant to developers and regulators of cyber-physical systems, including the automated driving systems that operate self-driving vehicles.
  2. Controlling Humans and Machines, 30 Temple Int'l. & Comp. L.J. 167 (2016), This article considers the "meaningful human control" of lethal weapons. However, unlike others on this topic, this article does not focus on the role that a human should play in an otherwise automated weapon system. Rather, it reverses these human and machine roles to consider automated systems that limit human-initiated lethal force. After discussing the concept of control generally, this piece argues, first, that a bias toward human authority could impede eventual restrictions on that authority and, second, that the line between automated systems that initiate lethal force and automated systems that restrict that force is potentially unclear.
  3. Select Legal Considerations for Shared Automated Driving (2016), This discussion paper introduces several legal considerations for shared automated driving with a view toward grounding a broader policy discussion. It begins by discussing likely implementations of shared automated driving. It next considers the kinds of legal actions that developers and regulators of these automated driving systems might take to promote or police them. It then connects these potential actions to existing law by describing three ways of adapting that law to automated driving. Finally, it provides specific perspectives and recommendations on this and any legal change.
  4. How Governments Can Promote Automated Driving (2016), This article presents nearly 50 steps that governments at all levels can take now to encourage the socially beneficial development, deployment, and use of automated road vehicles (so-called driverless, self-driving, or autonomous vehicles). After providing technical and legal context (including three pathways toward fully automated driving), it describes key administrative, legal, and community strategies. It concludes by urging policymakers to facilitate automated driving in part by expecting more from today’s drivers and vehicles.
  5. Automated Driving Policy (book chapter), in Lecture Notes in Mobility: Road Vehicle Automation 3 (2016),
  6. Regulation and the Risk of Inaction (book chapter), in Autonomes Fahren (2015),
  7. Lawyers and Engineers Should Speak the Same Robot Language (book chapter), in Robot Law (2015), -- see also this draft or this poster
  8. Proximity-Driven Liability, 102 Georgetown L.J. 1777 (2014),
  9. A Legal Perspective on Three Misconceptions in Vehicle Automation (book chapter), in Lecture Notes in Mobility: Road Vehicle Automation (2014),
  10. Automated Vehicles Are Probably Legal in the United States, 1 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 411 (2014) (originally published as white paper in 2012),
  11. Managing Autonomous Transportation Demand, 52 Santa Clara L. Rev. 1401 (2012), excerpted as Tomorrow’s World, Traffic Tech. Int’l, April-May 2013, at 4-10,

Joint Articles

  1. Bryant Walker Smith and Joakim Svensson (principal contributing authors), Automated and Autonomous Driving: Regulation under Uncertainty, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), May 2015,
  2. Tom Michael Gasser, Andre Seeck, and Bryant Walker Smith, Rahmenbedingungen für die Fahrerassistenzentwicklung (book chapter), in Handbuch Fahrerassistenzsysteme 3. Auflage (2014),
  3. Steven Shladover, Jane Lappin, Bob Denaro, and Bryant Walker Smith, Introduction: The Transportation Research Board’s 2013 Workshop on Road Vehicle Automation (book chapter), in Lecture Notes in Mobility: Road Vehicle Automation (2014),
  4. Bob Denaro, Johanna Zmud, Steven Shladover, Bryant Walker Smith, and Jane Lappin, Automated Vehicle Technology: Ten Research Areas to Follow in 2014, TR News, issue 292 (May-June 2014),
  5. Bryant Walker Smith and Tom Michael Gasser, Automated Vehicles: Language, Legality, and Liability, Thinking Highways, October 2012

Other Articles

  1. Government Assessment of Innovation Shouldn't Differ for Tech Companies, NY Times, October 24, 2016,
  2. How Can Government Officials Clear the Road for Self-Driving Cars?, Governing, April 8, 2016,
  3. Bryant Walker Smith on the Future of Self-Driving Cars, Popular Science, June 2015,
  4. Who Is the Driver?, New Scientist, December 22, 2012, syndicated as How Do You Ticket a Driverless Car?, Slate, December 30, 2012,

Key Reference Documents

  1. Model Federal Automated Driving Law
  2. Model State Automated Driving Law
  3. Automated Driving: Legislative and Regulatory Action,
  4. SAE Levels of Driving Automation,

Selected Blog Posts

  1. Legislative Shout Outs to Georgia and Virginia,
  2. Uber vs. the Law,
  3. Michigan's Automated Driving Bills,
  4. New Years Resolutions for Developers of Automated Vehicles,
  5. Tesla and Liability,
  6. Automated Vehicle Crashes,
  7. Slow Down That Runaway Ethical Trolley,
  8. New Book: Road Vehicle Automation,
  9. Something Interesting in California's New Automated Vehicle Testing Rule,
  10. Human Error as a Cause of Vehicle Crashes,
  11. Uncertain Liability,
  12. Looking at My Vehicle Automation Entries in the Rear-View Mirror,
  13. Planning for the Obsolescence of Technologies Not Yet Invented,
  14. The Reasonable Self-Driving Car,
  15. The Impact of Automation on Environmental Impact Statements,
  16. Driverless Carts Are Coming Sooner Than Driverless Cars,
  17. Automated Vehicles Are Probably Legal in the United States,
  18. A Self-Driving Crash Test,
  19. Stanford Students: Fall 2012 Course on the Law of Autonomous Driving,
  20. Planning for Autonomous Driving,
  21. On Blind Drivers and Base Maps,
  22. Driving at Perfection,
  23. My Other Car Is a … Robot? Defining Vehicle Automation,
  24. Backseat Driving,


  1. Poster of the Model Automated Driving Laws (2017)
  2. How Governments Can Encourage Automated Driving (2015)
  3. Lawyers and Engineers Can Speak the Same Robot Language (2014)
  4. Law of the Newly Possible (2014)
  5. Automated Vehicles Are Probably Legal in the United States (2013)
  6. Legal Aspects of Automated Driving (2013)

Selected Slides

  1. The Public Safety Case (2016)
  2. Developing Danger (2015)
  3. Regulating Automated Driving (2015)
  4. Automated Driving Macroliability (2016)
  5. Automated Driving Liability (2015)
  6. Ethical Issues in Automated Driving (2015)

Course Materials

  1. Seminar on the Law of the Newly Possible
  2. Seminar on the Legal Aspects of Vehicle Automation (PDF)

Other Materials

  1. How an (Autonomous Driving) Bill Becomes Law: An Oral History of Nevada's Groundbreaking Regulation of Self-Driving Vehicles, November 8, 2012,
  2. Additional video is available under the multimedia tab here