(New Scientist) Ever since the 1930s, self-driving cars have been just 20 years away. Many of those earlier visions, however, depended on changes to physical infrastructure that never came about – like special roads embedded with magnets.

Fast forward to today, and many of the modern concepts for such vehicles are intended to work with existing technologies. These supercomputers-on-wheels use a variety of onboard sensors – and, in some cases, stored maps or communications from other vehicles – to assist or even replace human drivers under specific conditions. And they have the potential to adapt to changes in existing infrastructure rather than requiring it to alter for them.

Infrastructure, however, is more than just roads, pavements, signs and signals. In a broad sense, it also includes the laws that govern motor vehicles: driver licensing requirements, rules of the road and principles of product liability, to name but a few. One major question remains though. Will tomorrow’s cars and trucks have to adapt to today’s legal infrastructure, or will that infrastructure adapt to them?

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