Defining Autonomous Vehicles

AuthorNathan Baker
chapter 1
In simple terms, automation is the elimination of human labour, to vary-
ing degrees, in a given task or process. Although many aspects of vehicle
operation have been automated over time, both criminal law and civil law
continue to hold the driver ultimately responsible for the operation of the
vehicle. As manufacturers of autonomous vehicles continue to increase
the degree of decision making of artif‌icial intelligence in order to reduce
human error, the law will have to determine whether it will allow the
human occupant to escape liability for any particular act, omission, or fail-
ure to act. Depending on the nature of the system implemented in a par-
ticular vehicle, dif‌ferent levels of care may be applied as against the driver.
Year after year, new technology has incrementally af‌fected the focus
of drivers. Early cars were controlled very simply. A steering wheel and
a throttle control lever provided the minimal level of control in some of
these vehicles. Developments in technology brought more complicated
controls; gearboxes, clutches, windshield wipers, lights, and the like fol-
lowed each other in rapid succession and of‌fered varying levels of auton-
omy. Today, some vehicles automatically turn on lights or signals, whereas
others operate windshield wipers. The automatic transmission is a form
of automation that has shifted decision making from the driver to the

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