New Technologies and Old Treaties

Bryant Walker Smith, New Technologies and Old Treaties, 114 AJIL Unbound 152–157 (2020).

6 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2021

See all articles by Bryant Walker Smith

Bryant Walker Smith

University of South Carolina - Law Library; University of Michigan Law School Program on Law and Mobility; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: April 27, 2020

Abstract

Every road vehicle must have a driver able to control it while in motion. These requirements, explicit in two important conventions on road traffic, have an uncertain relationship to the automated motor vehicles that are currently under development—often colloquially called “self-driving” or “driverless.” The immediate legal and policy questions are straightforward: Are these requirements consistent with automated driving and, if not, how should the inconsistency be resolved? More subtle questions go directly to international law’s role in a world that artificial intelligence is helping to rapidly change: In a showdown between a promising new technology and an entrenched treaty regime, which prevails? Should international law bend to avoid breaking? If so, what kind of flexibility is appropriate with respect to both the status and the substance of treaty obligations? And what role should deliberate ambiguity play in addressing these obligations? This essay raises these questions through the concrete case of automated driving. It introduces the road traffic conventions, identifies competing interpretations of their core driver requirements, and highlights ongoing efforts at the Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety to reach a consensus.

Keywords: automated driving, automated vehicles, autonomous driving, self-driving, driverless, automation, autonomy, artificial intelligence, international law, treaties, treaty interpretation,United Nations, Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety, Convention on Road Traffic Safety, WP.1

Suggested Citation

Smith, Bryant Walker, New Technologies and Old Treaties (April 27, 2020). Bryant Walker Smith, New Technologies and Old Treaties, 114 AJIL Unbound 152–157 (2020)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3747050

Bryant Walker Smith (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Law Library ( email )

1525 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.sc.edu/faculty/smith

University of Michigan Law School Program on Law and Mobility ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.umich.edu/FacultyBio/Pages/FacultyBio.aspx?FacID=bryantws

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/bws

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