Connected/Autonomous Vehicles, Ownership, and DMCA: What will vehicle ownership mean in the future?


flickr photo shared by sidehike under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Today Wired ran a story about John Deere's assertion that purchasing one of their tractors is "an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle." The key issue is not the hardware, but the software and the ability to access and modify it.  Using DMCA, many vehicle manufacturers are submitting comments to the Copyrights Office that modifying their software in a form of piracy. So legally, is this the end of ownership as we know it?

The questions and concerns about this legal development has been brewing for some time, but as the internet of thing comes closer to being a reality more people are calling into question our existing copyright and patent system and their limitations. (Even John Oliver discussed patents!)

This issue has been on the radar of USDOT's ITS JPO for a while now, especially the policy implications for connected and automated vehicles. The critical issue is the balance of open source software and concerns about cybersecurity and safety. Some of the promise of connected/automated vehicles, is the rich big data environments they will operate in but how can the industry cooperatively get there despite concerns about privacy and innovation? There is also the looming issue of liability for connected/autonomous vehicles, much of which hinges questions of safety and the perception of risk. 

It will be interesting to see how all of this develops and the rules are made.