Very recently, a driver using the autopilot mode in a Tesla
Model S was killed in an accident, leading to an array of legal
complexities, ethical conundrums, and sparking debates on the
question of liability in such a situation. Regulators in the United
States are currently investigating this death, which is the first
of its kind. While the said investigation is still underway, it is
clear that the legal, ethical and practical issues relating to the
common usage of autonomous vehicles are already here, and are very
real, and need to be addressed appropriately if the transition into
the driverless age is to be as smooth as possible. Our Automotive Practice
Group is therefore pleased to present the above publication,
accessible through this thumbnail, which is intended to provide
thought-stimulating insights on the burgeoning autonomous vehicular
industry and the uniquely new issues that already exist, and are
bound to continue to arise as the driverless future arrives in its
While incidents such as the Tesla car crash may increase
political pressure to tighten the regulation of automated functions
in a vehicle, thereby possibly slowing down the development of such
a technology, it is evident that the next chapter in mobility is
soon to be written and if corporations and governments intend to
tap into its full potential, they must prepare accordingly. This
paper provides a global and a domestic overview on the status of
autonomous vehicles as they currently stand, existing laws and
their limitations, how the idea spread, and the practical
challenges in its real world implementation, while also providing a
glimpse into the driverless future.
The following key points shall provide a brief synopsis of what
this publication covers;
The driverless car will most likely join unmanned drones and
digital surveillance as one of the advances and controversies of
Companies such as Tesla Motors, Google, Apple, TomTom, Baidu,
Faraday Future, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover are already looking to
become key players in the driverless space
Soon enough there will no way of distinguishing technology and
software companies from automobile companies, as collaborations
between the two will blur all boundaries between them.
Currently, automated features in cars are controlled by a
central unit called the ECU (engine control unit). The functioning
of the fully autonomous vehicle promises to elevate existing
technology to much more advanced levels.
The paper uses the Triple Bottom Line framework, an accounting
framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance:
social, environmental and economic and evaluates the autonomous
vehicles' potential against the said framework.
An amendment was made in 2014 to Article 8 of the Vienna
Convention on Road Traffic, 1968 allowing for the car to drive
itself as long as the system "can be overridden or
switched off by the driver". As a result, various
countries around the world have now begun taking measures to
confront the inevitable reign of the autonomous vehicle, which is
discussed in the publication
Legal ramifications relating to the following are discussed;
Liability and insurance
Standard of performance and care
Privacy, data protection and cyber security
Relevant / Applicable laws in India
The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology ( Reasonable security practices and
procedures and sensitive personal data or information )
The proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016
India's own unique challenges to implementation such as
cultural nuances, inadequate infrastructure and inadequate
legislation have been discussed
A glimpse into the future has been provided
At Nishith Desai Associates, it is our constant endeavor to be
future ready. No one can truly predict the lightening pace of
technological advancement in the current age. However, one can make
safe estimations and prepare accordingly.
Hope you have a good read and we look forward to your
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Nishith Desai Associates is a research-based Indian law firm with offices in Mumbai, Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Singapore, Mumbai BKC, Delhi and Munich that aims at providing strategic, legal and tax...
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