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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Ideas

Should we put robots on trial?

As machines get smarter — and sometimes cause harm — we’re going to need a legal system that can handle them.

Imagine being hit by a car with no driver. The guy in the passenger seat shrugs and points innocently at the computer nested in his dashboard. Who is to blame? You realize you have no idea.

To its advocates, the self-driving car currently under development by Google and other companies will be a godsend—a vehicle equipped with cameras, sensors, and a powerful CPU that will take thousands of life-or-death decisions out of the hands of fallible, distracted humans. But from a legal perspective, it raises an immediate question: What if the car screws up? What if it runs someone over?

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