Antitrust Tying and 'Driverless' Cars
20 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2019 Last revised: 20 Aug 2019
Date Written: June 29, 2019
Driverless cars will take us down the wrong road. Having a computer replace a human as driver is fine, but a “driverless car” will have a computer driver melded into the car. Carmakers will then sell the driverless car as a forced bundle. You will not be able to buy car and computer driver separately.
In antitrust law there is a name for that — the car and computer driver are “tied” together. Tying violates antitrust law dating back more than a century to the 1890 Sherman and the 1914 Clayton Acts. Applying hoary antitrust law in our modern economy can be tricky, and must be done with care.
But there are good reasons to stop carmakers from tying cars and drivers together. Why? To heighten competition, speed up innovation, and give car owners more freedom. To nurture the new industry of computer drivers as it begins to grow.
This article will explain those reasons in detail. First, we will look at driverless car technology. Second, we will look at the law prohibiting tying. Third, we will look at the harm that driverless cars will cause. Fourth, and finally, we will look at a “Goldilocks” remedy.
Our conclusion — the government should make both carmakers and computer-driver makers use a standard interface between car and driver. That will put a stop to “driverless cars”. Time is critical, and we should apply the brakes now. Computer drivers, yes. Driverless cars, no.
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