Preparing For a Driverless Future
Business, Socio-Economic and Legal Perspectives

July 7, 2016


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Very recently, a driver using the autopilot mode in a Tesla Model S was killed in an accident, leading to an array of legal complexities, ethical conundrums, and sparking debates on the question of liability in such a situation. Regulators in the United States are currently investigating this death, which is the first of its kind. While the said investigation is still underway, it is clear that the legal, ethical and practical issues relating to the common usage of autonomous vehicles are already here, and are very real, and need to be addressed appropriately if the transition into the driverless age is to be as smooth as possible. Our Automotive Practice Group is therefore pleased to present the above publication, accessible through this thumbnail, which is intended to provide thought-stimulating insights on the burgeoning autonomous vehicular industry and the uniquely new issues that already exist, and are bound to continue to arise as the driverless future arrives in its full glory.

While incidents such as the Tesla car crash may increase political pressure to tighten the regulation of automated functions in a vehicle, thereby possibly slowing down the development of such a technology, it is evident that the next chapter in mobility is soon to be written and if corporations and governments intend to tap into its full potential, they must prepare accordingly. This paper provides a global and a domestic overview on the status of autonomous vehicles as they currently stand, existing laws and their limitations, how the idea spread, and the practical challenges in its real world implementation, while also providing a glimpse into the driverless future.

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Key Points

The following key points shall provide a brief synopsis of what this publication covers;

  1. The driverless car will most likely join unmanned drones and digital surveillance as one of the advances and controversies of our times

  2. Companies such as Tesla Motors, Google, Apple, TomTom, Baidu, Faraday Future, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover are already looking to become key players in the driverless space

  3. Soon enough there will no way of distinguishing technology and software companies from automobile companies, as collaborations between the two will blur all boundaries between them.

  4. Currently, automated features in cars are controlled by a central unit called the ECU (engine control unit). The functioning of the fully autonomous vehicle promises to elevate existing technology to much more advanced levels.

  5. The paper uses the Triple Bottom Line framework, an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and economic and evaluates the autonomous vehicles’ potential against the said framework.

  6. An amendment was made in 2014 to Article 8 of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, 1968 allowing for the car to drive itself as long as the system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver”. As a result, various countries around the world have now begun taking measures to confront the inevitable reign of the autonomous vehicle, which is discussed in the publication

  7. Legal ramifications relating to the following are discussed;

    • Liability and insurance

    • Standard of performance and care

    • Privacy, data protection and cyber security

  1. Relevant / Applicable laws in India

    • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939

    • The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

    • The Information Technology Act, 2000

    • The Information Technology ( Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information )

    • The proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016

  2. India’s own unique challenges to implementation such as cultural nuances, inadequate infrastructure and inadequate legislation have been discussed

  3. A glimpse into the future has been provided

At Nishith Desai Associates, it is our constant endeavor to be future ready. No one can truly predict the lightening pace of technological advancement in the current age. However, one can make safe estimations and prepare accordingly.

Hope you have a good read and we look forward to your feedback!


Automotive Practice Group

Nishith Desai Associates


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