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Can Self-Driving Cars Protect Black People From Police Violence?

If automated vehicles can change and save so many lives, we should talk seriously about how they can protect black lives.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, second from left, looks at some of the computers in a self-driving car after a news conference.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, second from left, looks at some of the computers in a self-driving car after a news conference.Alex Brandon/AP

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation released new guidelines for emerging self-driving car technology. Said Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release about the guidelines: “Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken.”

Also on Tuesday, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Foxx served as mayor from 2009 to 2013, Keith Lamont Scott, an African American, was shot dead by a police officer while either in or at his car. Police say that Scott exited his vehicle with a gun “posing a threat”; Scott’s daughter and witnesses claim that he was sitting in his car reading a book when police shot him. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but history indicates that the account favoring the victim will likely be ruled out.