Legal Articles

Living In The Future

J. Bradley Klepper
Attorney at Law

Without a doubt, John Prine is my favorite living singer/songwriter. From songs like Sam Stone (live version) to Summers End he has the ability to make you laugh and cry. Often in the same song.

It comes as no surprise that the John Prine song "Living in the Future" got stuck in my head while I was reading a very interesting article about Autonomous Vehicles (“AVs”) the other day. I know, everyone is sick of talking about AVs; however, I find the subject interesting. AVs present a host of legal issues. Regardless, the article I was reading was the 2019 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study when the song came to mind.

One of the interesting points made in the article is that the public’s faith in autonomous vehicle technology is failing. In support of this position the article points to a survey of over 25,000 people located across 20 countries that shows that consumers are beginning to doubt the ability of Original Equipment Manufacturers (“OEMs”) to successfully bring autonomous vehicle technology to the market. This is true even in Germany where the public tends to put a lot of trust in OEMs.

Of course, one reason for the reduction in consumer support is the media’s coverage of accidents involving AVs. It is a new technology and when something goes wrong the media likes to make sure we are aware. For example, does anyone remember the crash involving the Tesla running into the trailer? I thought so. It is this coverage that has helped erode consumer faith in the technology.

The article also disclosed another interesting fact. Namely, that consumers want the government to step up and regulate autonomous vehicle technology. As opposed as I am to burdensome governmental regulation, I can understand the rationale here. When this technology arrives I would like for there to be some sort of standard to which the OEMs must comply.

To achieve the utopian benefits of a society where everyone “drives” an AV, the vehicles must be better connected. Interestingly, the survey revealed that while consumers may desire such connectivity they are reluctant to pay for it. According to the article, in the United States 1/3 of consumers would not be willing to pay any more for better vehicle connectivity and 42% would be willing to pay a premium of up to $500.00. Now I am not an accountant or an economist but it seems like it would be difficult to provide the connectivity that is needed within the price range that the public desires.

Another point made in the article it that the AV revolution is struggling to overcome entrenched consumer behavior. Specifically, consumers and their usage patterns are difficult to change. In other words, people like doing things the way they have always done them. This applies to ride sharing as well as adopting new technology.

At the end of the day I think the takeaway from the article is simply that the shine may have started to fade a bit on Autonomous Vehicles. A few years ago, it seems that AVs would be the answer to reduce congestion and improve safety. However, just like most forecasts of the future, prognosticators made some assumptions that may not hold true. Namely that everyone wants AVs and will utilize them, will be willing to pay for the technology and willing to change their behavior to bring forth this vision of a world full of AVs.

While I have no doubt that AVs are coming and their use will be widespread, I do not necessarily think it will happen as soon as most think. In other words, the future that was predicted 10 or 15 years ago may not be exactly right. Sure I believe our future includes AVs playing a large role in transportation. I am just not sure that it will be the role that we were originally told. People are too reluctant to change. And, quite frankly, there are just too many contrarians out there who don’t ever want to turn over control to technology. No matter how wonderful.

In other words, the future that is coming may not necessarily be the future we were sold. Which brings me back to John Prine who seemed to understand that years ago.

We are living in the future.
I’ll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We’re all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines

-John Prine-



J. Bradley Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers.Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.

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