Until the end of the human race, the name "Elaine Herzberg" will appear in discussions of technology, state regulations, and liability in personal injury.
And, since she was a so-called "street person," she could become a symbol of homelessness in the second decade of the 21st century.
Now that the world has absorbed that tragic shock, what could be thought of as the Herzberg Effect has begun.
In USA Today, for example, Ryan Randazo looks at how that death has generated so many questions.
For the layperson, the seminal one is: Can technology be trusted. The irony is not lost on anyone that the driverless car was positioned and packaged as improving safety on the road.
The experts are debating if the programming was at fault. But, for Everyman and Everywoman it's the larger matter of entrusting bits and pieces of their lives to what they can't understand. Of course, some are imagining the worse-case scenarios of robotic software failing and the artificial intelligence going on a killer spree.
The Uber accident is not a stand-alone in eroding the once blind trust in tech. What has been going on in the Facebook algorithms has also become suspicious. Not only can technology not be trusted. Also, we can't trust the profit-minded founders behind it. Mark Zuckerberg has gone from hero to alleged villain.
The matter of regulation also rears its head. Tech champion AZ governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order in 2015. It allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles on the road. Recently, AZ was also in the front lines of states which are considering permitting state taxes to be paid in bitcoin. Those kinds of initiatives help brand AZ as the location for tech developers.
It is the regulatory uncertainty which can derail crypto. At the state level, government leadership currently knows that there could be a pull-back from residents' cheering on the virtual currency. After all, the driverless car went crazy. So could the financial system underlying crypto. The implications are huge.
The third matter is not so open-ended. That is Uber's legal liability. The video released of the accident documents that the victim was at fault. Likely, her family will be settling with Uber rather than pushing for a trial.
Also not unambiguous will be amount of the settlement. The law is cruel in that way. The money due the family is based on the expected lifetime earnings of the victim. As a street person, Herzberg's could be calculated at a low level.
The Herzberg Effect is changing everything. That impact will be long-term.
Tech has been reined in.
Regulators will have to consider the overall public good, not simply the economy.
And progressives have to keep accepting that the law doesn't necessarily deliver justice. It may be unjust that Herzberg's life will be estimated to amount to so little in a settlement. But, as Jack McCoy used to hammer on "Law & Order," that's the law.
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