Fast & Furious: The Misregulation of Driverless Cars

51 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2016 Last revised: 17 Apr 2018

See all articles by Tracy Hresko Pearl

Tracy Hresko Pearl

University of Oklahoma College of Law

Date Written: August 5, 2016


The United States is on the cusp of a revolution in transportation. The sale and widespread use of both semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles, also known as “driverless cars,” are both imminent and likely to significantly change the way in which citizens commute, interact, and travel. While there is substantial concern amongst state lawmakers and the general public about the overall safety and desirability of these vehicles, experts predict that fully autonomous cars will dramatically improve highway safety, reduce traffic, increase productivity, and enhance the independence of individuals who are unable to obtain licenses. Lawmakers, however, motivated by irrational fears and unfounded assumptions that human drivers are far superior to automated technologies, have begun passing driverless car laws that create significant liability issues while doing very little to enhance road safety. These laws ignore the differences between semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles, chill technological advancement, impose unwarranted liability on human drivers in many circumstances, and may actually incentivize human driver behavior that is less safe than letting vehicles drive autonomously. Both “operator” and override provisions – two very common types of driverless car laws – make these mistakes. These laws should be revised significantly or struck down and replaced with laws and regulations that are both carefully tailored to particular levels of autonomous technologies and informed by the growing amount of empirical research suggesting that fully autonomous vehicles are far safer than those controlled by human drivers.

Keywords: Driverless Cars, Autonomous Vehicles, Law and Technology, Regulation, State Law, Tesla, Google, Autonomous Technologies, Highway Safety, Motor Vehicle Law, NHTSA, Traffic, Accessibility, Safety

Suggested Citation

Hresko Pearl, Tracy, Fast & Furious: The Misregulation of Driverless Cars (August 5, 2016). NYU Annual Survey of American Law, Vol. 73, No. 24, 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Tracy Hresko Pearl (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma College of Law ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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