DIY self-driving cars


I’ve written about George Hotz before (here, and here), the chap is a legendary hacker, and has been building a kit to adapt certain ordinary cars into self-driving ones using less than $1000 worth of equipment. Oh, and he’s building the kits in his garage.

It now seems that following some conversations with regulators, he’s decided to get around them by giving his code away for free. His logic goes that seeing as he isn’t selling anything, he can’t be liable for it.

The code is available here.

This is a really interesting workaround. Seeing as he isn’t selling anything, product liability might not apply. The individual who downloads and uses the code would, therefore, appear to be liable for its usage. But what if a crash is caused by a fault in the base coding itself, that Hotz’ team wrote?

I think the link between the original programmer and end user might be too much of a stretch in law, even if the people building the system should shoulder some responsibility. Morally, at least.

Minion 220 racing multirotor by RotorGeeks. Photo by Commanderbryce. Used under CC 4.0 License.

If the same scenario were to play out with a crude autonomous weapon system, with tech-savvy terrorists, for example. The liability questions would be different, as certain targeting criteria would have to be determined in advance by either the original base programmer or the subsequent programmer adapting the original coding. Even if it was the original programmer who, for example coded all police officers as targets, the subsequent programmer has actually deployed the weapon system, and initiated the chain of causality.

It would not surprise me if ISIS were considering this method of attack right now. It would fit with their recent modus operandi, of giving people skills and methods for attacks, but not actually getting involved themselves. But I’ll leave discussion about that to security studies scholars.

Until next time!

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