Driverless cars: an economic problem.

Another one for the unintended consequences file? From Slashdot (not normally a research reporting resource, but bear with us) we hear a note of concern sounded about Google cars cutting significantly into local revenues by avoiding traffic tickets:

Approximately 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the U.S. every year, paying out more than $6.2 billion per year, according to statistics from the U.S. Highway Patrol published at That translates to an estimated $300,000 in speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer every year. State and local governments often lean on this source of income when they hit financial trouble. A study released in 2009 examined data over a 13-year period in North Carolina, finding a ‘statistically significant correlation between a drop in local government revenue one year, and more traffic tickets the next year,’ Popular Science reported.

Partially, the problem is that if a driverless car gets a ticket, it’s hard to tell who should be paying it (the absent operator? the company that designed the car?). But the real issue is that these cars are programmed to abide by the rules of the road. Even the silly ones that trap human drivers all the time.

More discussion on Network World.