Yesterday the Obama administration proposed spending almost $4 billion to speed the development of autonomous vehicles. The proposal, which requires Congressional approval, would fund regulatory efforts to have officials work with automakers to come up with rules and policies necessary to make driverless cars work. Automakers frequently cite the lack of guidance from the government as one of the chief barriers to their autonomous vehicle projects. “Automated vehicles open up opportunities for saving time, saving lives and saving fuel,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Thursday at the North American International Auto Show, an annual auto industry get together in Detroit.
The “0INK” vanity plate battle waged by Indiana police officer Rodney Vawter has come to an end–at least for now. We previously reported on Officer Vawters’s efforts of to keep his vanity plate “0INK”–a tongue-in-cheek reference to his job. The Chicago Tribune reports that Officer Vawter lost the battle last week, with a unanimous high court ruling that license plates are not individual speech but government speech subject to regulation.
Bail in traffic cases has long been a bone of contention between defense attorneys and superior courts. Here’s how it works. A motorist gets a speeding ticket and wants to fight it. She goes down to the courthouse to request a trial, and the clerk tells her she must pay $370 “bail” in order to secure a trial date. This practice is flatly unconstitutional, but has been imposed by almost every court in California for years. They call it “bail,” but what they’re really doing is collecting your anticipated fine in advance. (It can’t legally be bail in traffic cases, because bail is authorized only for crimes that carry a jail sentence.) Following last May’s stern rebuke by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court, the California Legislature last week passed a law (and Governor Brown approved) banning the practice statewide. A judge can still require bail in limited circumstances such as when a motorist refuses to sign a promise to appear or if the judge believes the motorist will not appear for trial.
DUI drivers in Colorado have been slow to catch on to the state’s new felony DUI law, which made fourth offense DUIs a felony in the Centennial State beginning last month. The story of David Randall Nance is typical of DUI drivers in Colorado arrested under the new law. Colorado Springs police arrested Nance for DUI two weeks ago following a car crash. Nance had eight prior “DUI-related convictions” (whatever that means). “Give me my ticket and let me get out of here,” he said, according to officer Michelle Nethercot, who wrote his arrest affidavit. Nance later said that he had stopped drinking and was getting treatment.
DMV discriminates against transgender motorists again, this time in Louisiana. (You may recall we previously reported a South Carolina teen who was prohibited from wearing makeup in her driver’s license photo. South Carolina’s DMV relented after the ACLU took the case.) It’s the same story here, just a different state. 21-year-old Denham Springs resident Alexandra Glover says the clerk told her she was trying to misrepresent her gender by wearing makeup. “You don’t look like a man,” she was told. The state’s rationale is the same that South Carolina used before realizing how ludicrous it was: DMV requires that the license photo accurately reflect the motorist’s usual appearance. The obvious problem is that DMV has no way of knowing what a motorist’s “usual appearance” is. When DMV discriminates against transgender motorists, there are remedies they can pursue. If you or anyone you know has suffered such discrimination, contact the ACLU or our office immediately.
Driverless cars must deal with motorists, and it’s proving more difficult than expected. The New York Times reported this week one surprising problem encountered by Google’s autonomous vehicle project: the difficulty of interacting with human drivers. Apparently the computerized cars are not completely prepared for drivers who break the rules. One Google car, in a test in 2009, couldn’t get through a four-way stop because its sensors kept waiting for other (human) drivers to stop completely and let it go. The human drivers kept inching forward, looking for the advantage — paralyzing Google’s robot.