' Lindsay Grizzard | MTTLR

The Future of Autonomous Vehicles and the Fourth Amendment

Level 4 autonomous vehicles, vehicles that do not require human interaction in most circumstances,  are predicted to be on the road as soon as 2021. Experts believe that as autonomous vehicles grow in popularity and availability, the prevalence of car ownership will dramatically decrease. Ridesharing will be much less expensive without a driver to pay and will be very convenient; additionally, autonomous vehicles will be safer but also more expensive. Therefore, it will likely be cheaper to buy every trip in a vehicle individually from a rideshare company than to buy a personal car with autonomous driving technology. This situation will implicate the third-party doctrine, an important and rapidly changing area of fourth amendment law. While the car and the physical items within it neatly fit into the current automobile exception, the computer and data aspects of autonomous vehicles should be treated as cell phones and cell-site location data – areas protected by the 4th Amendment more strongly than vehicles. The rise of autonomous vehicles will change the nature of police work substantially. Autonomous vehicles will keep mountains of data on their passengers, and travel information can reveal a shocking amount of information. Police deserve every resource to stop potential crimes and to catch suspected criminals, but the Constitution provides protection for citizens so their privacy is not invaded – the Fourth Amendment. However, courts have ruled that the Fourth Amendment is much more limited when automobiles are involved, and courts have only recently begun to protect data in our quickly advancing technological society. As the advent of autonomous vehicles approaches, courts should prioritize the protection of individual privacy interests,...