"Whether we like it or not, automated, driverless vehicles are quickly becoming a reality and a norm in our society. Along with all the benefits the technology and associated services provide, there are also detriments—for civilians and law enforcement alike.

The criminal defense implications for self-driving vehicles are becoming much more prevalent as the technology proliferates. For example, an attempted traffic stop video recently made its rounds on social media, ultimately garnering publicity from outlets such as CNN. The footage showed law enforcement attempting to effectuate the seizure of a driverless vehicle.

As you can see, the officers are quite confused. One would think they knew a completely driverless taxi system was operating in their backyard, but perhaps not. Either way, it’s easy to see how hesitation would follow from an individual’s initial interaction with this type of technology.

Maybe they are aware—maybe they’re stopping driverless vehicles in the hopes of searching them for contraband. After all, what better way to move controlled substances or other illegal items than in a car with no occupants to risk a consent to search? And just to be clear, I am not in any way advocating for individuals to attempt that activity.

Regardless, this viral video got me thinking: How do driverless vehicles affect Fourth Amendment search and seizure law?

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