As Computers Take Over Transportation, Liability Threatens

By Cory Bilton.

Foggy Bottom Metro Sign

Transportation has incorporated new technologies for centuries now. But the newest technologies are increasingly removing humans from the equation, at least as far as driving or controlling vehicles. Last month I wrote about some of the legal challenges facing autonomous vehicles when they are released to the public. This week, I ran across two other instances where legal liability greatly limited computer controlled technology in our cars and public transportation. These examples illustrate not only some of the challenges that I think autonomous vehicles will face, but also present a cautionary tale that new technology does not necessarily perform better than a human would.

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Lights for Pedestrians and Bicyclists After Dark

By Cory Bilton

Storm Clouds Over WOD

One way to tell that fall is approaching is that it is starting to get dark earlier in the evenings. In fact, my commute home on my bicycle is mostly in the dark already (sunset was at 7:10 pm this evening). Many bicycle commuters in the area are pretty good about affixing lights to their bicycle or body (I’ve previously blogged about the legal requirements for biking after dark). On urban streets or in a business district of the Washington, DC metro area, there is typically sufficient ambient light from street lights and buildings for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists to have the opportunity to see each other. However, on the numerous paved trails in our region serious hazards exist because bicyclists’ lights often blind other trail users and pedestrians rarely wear lights or reflective clothing.

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Lack of Model Jury Instructions for Bicyclists in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC

By Cory Bilton.

Bike Lane Emblem

The October 2014 edition of Bicycling Magazine lists Washington, DC, Arlington, and Alexandria among America’s Best Bike Cities. DC ranks the best of the three in position #5; Arlington comes in at #19; and Alexandria falls at #31. This is a sign of how the entire metropolitan area is embracing bicycling as a mode of transportation, a good source of exercise, and a method of alleviating traffic congestion. But if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be struck by a vehicle while riding your bicycle, one thing you won’t find in the metropolitan DC area is any model jury instructions for bicyclists. This puts bicyclists at a significant disadvantage at trial.

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