Driving Solo: Solutions to the Current Patchwork of Legislation Concerning Automated Vehicles

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By Bryan Boccelli

This Note argues that states across the nation should expand upon and in some cases begin to introduce legislation in regards to self-driving vehicles. Although there are currently a handful of states that already have some form of regulation in effect regarding self-driving vehicles, the current patchwork of legislation is not very conducive for companies and entrepreneurs that wish to enter this market. This Note looks at a gradient system of automation as the basis for legislation that could potentially lead to greater investment from car manufactures in this area of technology. If adopted, a gradient system would mean that the automated vehicle would be subject to specific regulations based on a car’s level of automation. The more autonomous the car is, the more highly regulated it will become.… Read the rest

Automated Vehicles: Strict Products Liability, Negligence Liability and Proliferation

By: Steven Wittenberg

The proliferation of automated vehicles (sometimes called “self-driving cars”[1] or “autonomous cars”[2]) is poised to make American roads safer by reducing or even eliminating human error, which is the leading cause of collisions. In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 40 percent of crashes occur because of “recognition error,” which includes “inadequate surveillance” and “internal distraction,” while 35 percent of crashes arise from “decision error,” which includes speeding and misjudgments.[3] Automated vehicles can increase driver safety by removing driver error from the situation.[4]

California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and D.C. are the only states which have pioneered legislation regulating automated vehicles on public roads.[5] Virginia has dedicated 70 miles of a highway for public road testing.[6] To provide some background, the California statute requires drivers of automated vehicles to obtain a special license.[7] Additionally, the vehicles … Read the rest

The Danger of the Gas Tax: to People, Businesses, and even to the Environment

By: Joe Zender

Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon proposed an amendment earlier this year to raise the federal ‘gas tax’ from 18 cents per gallon to 33 cents.[1] While the proposal failed, this 82 percent increase is endemic of the exorbitant gas taxes and increases around the country, both at the federal and state levels. Even as gasoline consumption has leveled off in the U.S., national production of gasoline has increased drastically, leading to lower gas prices.[2][3] Even so, legislatures have moved to increase the burden on each gallon consumed by the taxpayers. The gas tax is now to a point where it unduly burdens businesses, citizens, and even potentially the environment. It should be eliminated and replaced with a more efficient and effective system for funding infrastructure.

The retail cost of a gallon of gasoline across the U.S. on October 1, 2015 was $2.42.[4] At the … Read the rest

The Ride-Sharing Economy: Keeping Liability in the Rearview

By: Keith St. Aubin

             In large cities the world over, passengers have stopped reaching into the air to hail a cab and have begun reaching into their pockets for their smartphones.  Companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar represent a cross-section of the transportation sector of a rapidly growing marketplace: the so-called “sharing economy.”[1]  The sharing economy delivers products, places, rides and various other perks to consumers through the use of modern technology.  Dog owners can turn to DogVacay rather than finding a kennel for Fido.[2]  The elderly can now hire someone to clean their gutters using TaskRabbit instead of dealing with the snotty kid next-door.[3]  Loan seekers can avoid the bank by booting up their PC and heading over to Lending Club.[4]  The sharing economy exploded on the scene across various sectors seemingly overnight.  Almost twenty years after Ebay began, the peer-to-peer model has expanded Read the rest

Pirating an Industry: Ridesharing as a Subversion of Livery Regulation

By: Matthew Holm

            “A ride whenever you need one,” boasts the corporate tagline of San Francisco-based company Lyft.[1]  Founded in 2012, Lyft is a relatively recent addition to the growing “ridesharing” industry.[2]  Its competitors such as UberX, Sidecar, Summon, and Wingz have altered the urban transportation market by allowing smartphone users to summon a car, track the driver’s arrival, and pay for a ride, all at the touch of a virtual button.[3]  The concept is genius and has gained widespread popularity in major cities in the United States and around the globe since Uber’s launch in 2009.[4]

            But these fledgling ride-for-hire companies continue to straddle regulatory fences and have required both controversial legislation and a stream of litigation to define the restrictions and mandates that will apply to the drivers and vehicles they employ.  Uber has been under attack for its circumvention of ride-for-hire regulation since Read the rest

Uber Battle: Cabbies vs. Startup

Those who have hailed a taxi or used public transportation can attest to the downsides of urban transportation including dirtiness, crowdedness, and unreliability. Since its founding in 2010, San Francisco-based startup Uber has aimed to appease the unsatisfied market of urban dwellers that desire easier, cleaner, more dependable transportation than has been available. Uber operates as “your on-demand personal driver” allowing users to hire and pay the nearest of the company’s “sleek black cars” (think Lincoln Towncar) as a chauffer through the users’ mobile phones. Unsurprisingly, Uber has clashed with regulators, cabbies, and others who claim that Uber is skirting existing regulations that protect customers. Cities including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City have proposed or threatened to propose regulations that would effectively run Uber out of their respective towns. In addition, cab drivers in several cities have filed class action suits alleging that the company is engaging Read the rest

Honking and Swearing Never Work: An Examination of Urban Traffic Congestion Remedies

I.  Introduction

As any city grows and develops a strong central business district (CBD), congestion is going to become a matter of concern for those who both live and work in that area.  While this pain has been universally felt amongst metropolitan areas, the handling of this problem has varied.  Despite the recognition of the issue, as the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has noted that congestion has nearly tripled in the last twenty five years, that same time period has seen an 239 percent increase in highway spending.  [1] A recent English study estimated that a five percent reduction in travel time could generate five billion U.S. dollars in savings per year. [2]  While no similar research has been commenced in the United States, American urban citizens lost 3.7 billion hours of time and wasted 2.3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in congested streets in 2003. [3]   The … Read the rest

Get On The City Bus: The Future of The American Suburb and Her Automobiles

I.  Introduction

Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book, the Life and Death of Great American Cities revolutionized the way Americans viewed the streets that stretched beyond their front door.  In critiquing the programs of her era’s urban planners, Jacobs held up the sentimental and somewhat physically cramped city neighborhood as the pinnacle of communal living. [1]  Regardless of Jacobs’ warnings, urbanism rolled on, and in so doing, the suburb was born. Despite Americans’ preference towards the suburb in the later half of the twentieth century, our nation is currently poised to regret the very expansionist zest that drew them away from the urban core.  With the fluctuating price of gas and the limited public transportation alternatives, suburban Americans are forced to devote an ever-growing portion of their income and time to surviving their daily commutes. [2] Reducing the price of gas may be a legitimate means of combating the immediate crisis, but

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Preventing Price-Gouging of Gasoline after Natural Disasters

I. Introduction

In 2007, in response to the public’s anger about the high cost of gasoline after the hurricane disasters, the House of Representatives drafted and passed the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act (“FPGPA”), which reads in part:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to sell…during a period of an energy emergency, gasoline…at a price that 
(A) is unconscionably excessive; and 
(B) indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage of the circumstances related to an energy emergency to increase prices unreasonably.” [1]

To date, the Senate has not voted on the bill.  While the victims of recent hurricanes were understandably angered with rising gasoline prices in the days following the disasters, the FPGPA would ultimately do these consumers more harm than good in terms of economic recovery because the language of the bill sets an unclear standard for law enforcement, merchants and consumers, and anti price-gouging legislation has been

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Anchors Aweigh! The U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Regulating International Shipping on the High Seas

Law students enrolled in a “substantive” criminal procedure course frequently sweat over the intricacies of search and seizure law within contexts familiar to the average land-lubber attorney – the home, the automobile, and the person strolling down the street.  Perhaps some die-hard students will take the time to learn more obscure aspects of the Fourth Amendment such as administrative searches and the law of satellite reconnaissance.  But who really bothers to learn anything about maritime search and seizure law?  The idea of pirates, smugglers, and privateers in the twenty-first century is absurd to most people, including many attorneys.  But, be forewarned!  In the post 9/11 world the men and women in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard are on call twenty-four hours a day monitoring commercial and private vessels on the high seas.  [1]  They are enforcing regulatory legislation developed by Congress and applicable to all tankers,

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