The Self Driving Car: A Disruptive Innovation on Established Industries and Legal Practices
Paul Hoybjerg and Adam Buck
In 1955, Walt Disney opened his historic Disneyland. In Tomorrow land, visitors were confronted with futuristic inventions: a box that could cook food in less than a minute, small telephones that could be carried anywhere, and house-cleaning robots. Microwaves, smart phones, and robotic vacuums are now commonplace, despite the fact that just a few decades ago, these futuristic inventions seemed far-fetched.
Enter the automated car – a disruptive innovation that will have wide-ranging impacts on virtually all daily activities. Although the automated car could have been a key attraction of Tomorrow land just a couple of decades ago, it is a reality here and now, and will affect much more than just daily commutes and long road trips. The self-driving, or driverless, car will completely change the automotive industry, city planning, home construction, insurance markets, the legal industry, millennial milestones, and the Americana mentality of “freedom” at the wheel – certainly a threat to “car guys” and “car gals,” like one of the authors of this article. Nevertheless, self-driving cars are making headlines every day. State and local leaders are similarly taking note, with Utah leaders seeking to be at the cutting-edge of the driverless experience. For example, Utah Representative Robert Spend love recently introduced H.B. 371 during the 2018 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, which would have been the first legislative bill in the country to fully legalize fully autonomous vehicles on a state’s public roads. Kelsey Johnson, Utah: The Perfect Place for Self-driving Cars, The Daily universe, May 10, 2018, available at https://universe.byu.edu/2018/05/10/ utah-the-perfect-place-for-self-driving-cars/. Similarly, downtown Salt Lake City was recently selected as a “lab for ‘smart city’ wireless technology,” where wireless nodes and networking services will be installed and tested throughout the downtown area. Ultimately, this network could one day be used to support connected vehicles and even flying taxis. Sean P. Means, Self-driving Cars in Salt Lake City? Downtown Chosen To Be Lab For ‘Smart City’ Wireless Technology, The Salt lake Tribune, Apr. 9, 2018, available at https://www.sltrib.com/ news/2018/04/09/self-driving-cars-in-salt-lake-city-downtown-chosen-to-be-lab-for-smart-city-wireless-technology/.
Like all disruption, the self-driving car means change. Lawyers and professionals are already confronting entire shifts in the legal industries, and many practitioners will now need to modify their practices and prepare for a vanishing supply of human negligence cases and increasing legal battles that will result from even the slightest malfunction in technology and the resulting question of liability.
Driving attitudes are changing. Millennials are getting their licenses later, if they get them at all. No longer are the days when a teenager would eagerly await his or her fifteenth or sixteenth birthday to attain the freedom that driving promised. The shift in mentality is significant. In 1983, people between the ages of 20 and 24 got their licenses at a rate of 92%. That percentage dropped to 77% in 2014, a drop of 15% in only one generation. Michael Sivak & Brandon Schoettle, Recent Decreases in the Proportion of Persons with a Driver’s License Across All Age Groups, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Report No.: UMTRI-2016-4, Jan. 2016, available at http://www.umich.edu/~umtriswt/PDF/UMTRI-2016-4_ Abstract_English.pdf. The first big milestone in a millennial’s life is now getting his or her first cell phone, not a driver license. Associated Press, No, millennials aren’t “the end of car culture,” CBS news, Mar. 9, 2016, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/ news/no-millennials-arent-the-end-of-car-culture/.
The changing attitude is not solely confined to millennials. Non-millennials are showing a lower interest in vehicle driving and vehicle ownership. Google, Lyft, and Uber have illustrated with incredibly high valuations that this mentality is occurring. The consuming public is showing that cars are not as desirable as they once were. Aside from collector’s items, the average car is a horrible investment. It depreciates rapidly the moment you drive it off the lot. It is expensive to maintain, fuel, and insure and takes up a considerable portion of the square footage of your home to store. Cost is listed as a top reason millennials do not get their license. Brandon Schoettle & Michael Sivak, The Reasons for the Recent Decline in Young Driver Licensing in the US, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Report No.: UMTRI-2013-22, Aug. 2013, available at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/ 99124/102951.pdf?sequence=1.
Survey results demonstrate that additional reasons young adults decline obtaining a driver’s license include: Too busy or occupied with other activities (37%); Easy access to transportation from someone else (31%); Preference for biking or walking (22%); Preference for public transportation (17%); Environment concerns and harmful contributions of vehicle emissions (9%); Communication with others is available by phone and internet and no need to meet in person (8%); and Medical problems (7%). Id. at i.
The statistics show that the attitudes are changing across the consumer demographics with an accelerated shift occurring in millennials. Id. at 7–8. People do not care if they are the ones driving. They have shown that if the transportation does not change to accommodate their mentality, they will find another way to move themselves, or their ideas, from Point A...