Re: lawyers vs. AirCars

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 22 Aug 1999 21:50:05 -0700 (PDT)

On Sun, 22 Aug 1999, Spike Jones wrote:

> Consider the seemingly overwhelming problem of product liability.
> ...
> Now, would you want to give every prole the means to fly *overhead*?
> I think not.

Actually, I would say knowing Greg, the answer might be "yes". There is little difference in terms of accident risk for people flying overhead vs. flying around on a 2D grid on the ground. *In theory* flying in a 3D grid should be less hazardous because you have an extra dimension in which to operate.

But I'll let him weigh in before I sink myself further into the mud.

> Or if so, the device would have *no* user input, other than the
> GPS coordinates of the destination, which may not be changed
> after the machine determines if it has sufficient fuel and takes off.

The question is, are you using the device for transporation or entertainment? If its for transporation, the ideal situation would be the one you describe -- enter the coordinates and forget.

> Even assuming raging nanotech, there
> remains the daunting nontechnical problem of making every
> personal aircar absolutely perfectly safe for the most talented
> and determined idiot.

This assumes that the most determined idiot wants to race his air-car or do stunts with it in public air-space. If so the device has gone from transporation to entertainment. In general we as a society have a position that "entertainment" should be conducted under non-observer and in most cases non-participant hazardous conditions. We also have (at least in our society) a principle that "stupid is as stupid does", so if you want to crash your car into a brick wall at 100 MPH you are free to do that.

Its gratifying to see that we still allow natural selection to work to some degree.

> Nowthen, at the risk of making this post a scattershot mess,
> consider current transportation technologies that are not being
> implemented because of liability uncertainties, such as caravanning.
> ... This technology has already been demonstrated, but as we know,
> it is not being used for no one will insure a caravan.

Huh? I don't believe this is the case. To the best of my knowledge, my insurance policy *does not* state that -- "in the event of an accident where your vehicle is under the control of a computer, or has an accident in which other involved vehicles are under the control of a computer there shall be no reimbursement for damages incurred.

If anyone has an example of such a policy (i.e. that coverage is revoked in the event that a computer is driving the car) please show it to me and provide information about the insurer.

I believe the problem is to prevent the bozos who don't have the caravaning technology installed in their vehicles from deciding that they can cut into the caravaning lane (as well as convincing the drivers in the caravaning lane to give up control of their vehicle and "trust" the machine). For caravaning to *really* work, you would have to have a roadway that prevented non-caravaning enabled vehicles from getting onto it. Otherwise it is inherently unsafe.

It has to do with "degrees of trust". Car drivers in opposing lanes do not drive in the lanes of oncoming traffic (except as I've quite frequently observed in Moscow, Russia), because they have little confidence of surviving this experience. [I suppose one could argue that if you have significant experience in driving in lanes of oncoming traffic, the experience is survivable...] In the U.S., many drivers would *think* that they could drive in the caravanning lane without suffering an accident, but the reaction times required in a caravanning lane are inherently shorter than a human can provide, so although the non-caravaning enabled drivers would get away with the gambit some of the time, they ultimately would lose the bet (presumably with negative consequences to surrounding drivers).

So, if in fact the insurance companies do not insure such situations, I would argue that they are correct in such circumstances that they cannot guarantee the reliability of all vehicles in such an altered transportation environment. It would be a prescription for negative cash flow, if they did otherwise.

Re: discussion of SF bay traffic
--> you should consider moving to Seattle (where the situation

might very well be worse)...

The problem can only be solved if you have a way of requiring the only vehicles in the caravanning lane are caravanning technology enabled.

> Help us Obie Wan Gregory, you're our only hope. {8-[ spike

Great, thats just great.... I'm down in the pit dealing with the astronomers and the SETI trolls, barely surviving, and you're invoking the powers of Obie Wan Gregory to solve your pitiful little traffic problems. Jeezhe, do we have different priority scales or what?!?

Lord, save me, how can I fly like an eagle when around me doth appearest to be a flock of turkeys?