I read in this Bloomberg article

Ten days later, a Mountain View motorcycle cop noticed traffic stacking up behind a Google car going 24 miles an hour in a busy 35 mph zone. He zoomed over and became the first officer to stop a robot car. He didn’t issue a ticket -- who would he give it to? -- but he warned the two engineers on board about creating a hazard.

Who gets the traffic ticket in a self-driving car? The car owner, the manufacturer, the people in the car at the time of the infraction, etc.?

I am most interested in United States, especially California and Massachusetts.

The NSW Road Transport Act 2013 defines:

"Driver" means any person driving a vehicle, and includes any person riding a vehicle.

"Drive" includes:

(a) be in control of the steering, movement or propulsion of a vehicle, and

(b) in relation to a trailer, draw or tow the trailer, and

(c) ride a vehicle.

As written, the ticket would be issued to the person "in control of the steering, movement or propulsion of a vehicle". I think the courts would take the line of least resistance and interpret this to mean the person who turned the vehicle on and selected its destination as they are in control of its movement or propulsion.

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    In addition you are responsible for the car after leaving it - otherwise how could anyone get a parking ticket? So it makes sense that you would also be responsible if you instruct your car to drive to school, pick up your kids, and take them back home, and something bad happens. – gnasher729 Dec 21 '15 at 20:19
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    @gnasher729 actually, the owner is responsible for parking tickets – Dale M Dec 21 '15 at 22:33

I don't believe the law has yet contemplated self-driving vehicles. Nor am I aware of any leading legal precedence. This is pioneering technology right now.

My sense of how this will work out is that the registered owner of the vehicle will receive whatever penalties are attached with moving infractions of automated driverless vehicles.

Why would you create a hazard by driving slightly below the maximum speed permitted by law under optimal conditions?

Anyway, the main reaon why the engineers are on board is exactly because one of them is legally the driver, i.e. controlling the vehicle. So he would get the ticket. But that of course requires that he has committed a traffic violation.

  • They were doing 24mp in a busy 35 mph zone. That means they were moving about one third slower than the other drivers might expect, although how much of a hazard that is would be more suited to Motor Vehicles SE. – HAEM Mar 20 at 12:12
  • Well, they're not braking abruptly or anything like that. They might be impeding traffic flow, but I can't see how they cause a hazard. Non-motor vehicles like bicycles would be going much slower. Also, the maximum speed of some motor vehicles might be slower. A maximum permitted speed is the maximum speed permitted under optimal circumstances. It's not a mandatory minimum speed. I have to admit, though, that I am not familiar with the road traffic laws of California or Massachusetts. – Jens Müller Mar 20 at 17:05
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    Not all laws target hazards. "Impeding traffic flow unnecessarily" might well be enough to warrant a ticket, although 25 in a 35 is probably on the edge. 25 in a 60 would easily be obstruction. (In the UK at least, slow moving vehicles are supposed to pull over to allow others to pass. In Germany this actually happens.) – Martin Bonner Mar 20 at 20:35

There may be a different answer if and when we get totally autonomous vehicles and what sort of tech serves as the foundation for their ongoing development or updates.

For example, if the car was speeding due to a glitch in code (or if it performed the wrong action and caused an accident), it is likely the car developer or the AI developer could be liable. By that same token, if an OTA update was released that morning for the vehicle's software and the operator (the terminology used for the "driver" of driverless vehicles) failed to allow it to download and install, the burden would likely shift away from developers to the operator.

I happen to interview Jeff Miller, IEEE Senior member and associate professor of engineering who gave me some interesting insights. He gave some really great inputs which also covers this topi and probably makes more sense on why machines would get the ticket now. You might find this Link intersting.

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    Please do not post answers where the actual answer can only be found through a link to a 3rd party site. More information behind this link – Philipp Jul 15 '16 at 9:11

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