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Paul Sancya / AP

The ascendence of self-driving cars has opened a debate about whether man or machine is liable when there's an accident involving an autonomous vehicle. At a panel discussion in Washington on Thursday, experts highlighted an area where those questions are particularly difficult to answer: the moment when the software in a self-driving vehicle hands off control of the vehicle to the human behind the wheel.

"We're calling it the hot potato situation, right? The car is driving along the road at 60 miles an hour and all of a sudden something doesn't look right to the vehicle and it's a hot potato and just hands the control back to the driver." — Paul Lewis, Vice President of Policy and Finance at the Eno Center

Lewis said that he could see two ways for policymakers to resolve this thorny question:

  1. Release "very explicit" liability laws at either the federal or state level
  2. Let the courts decide as they vet lawsuits over the issue

Real world context: Tesla has already had to deal with the potential for lawsuits about its Autopilot feature. Federal officials indicated last year that liability may continue to be regulated at the state level.

The bigger picture: Numerous Silicon Valley firms — Alphabet and Uber included — are throwing their lot in with self-driving cars. And that doesn't include the Detroit automakers who are experimenting with autonomous vehicles. They say that having clear, nationwide regulations for the vehicles would encourage en masse adoption of the technology.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”