Driverless arbitration - Ben Giaretta, Partner at Fox Williams

Driverless arbitration - Ben Giaretta, Partner at Fox Williams


The most dramatic technological change on the horizon is likely to be driverless cars. Dramatic in the sense of the scale of the adjustment in our relationship with technology.

We accept as a normal part of our lives the fact that we keep in our pockets a device that has more computing power than the mainframe computer that NASA used to send astronauts to the moon. But our relationship with cars is different. For over a century we have built our societies around cars. We see them every time we step onto a city street. We know how they operate. We understand that accidents can be caused by man or machine. But soon, with the advent of driverless cars, everything will change.

There is no indication we are anywhere near developing driverless arbitration. However, the use of technology in arbitration will steadily increase, and there are lessons to be learned from the introduction of driverless cars. The main changes relate to the passenger, the vehicle and the context.


The passenger


The most important person in a car, of course, is the passenger. The primary purpose of a car is to convey a passenger (who might also be the driver) from one point to another.

We are so used to cars that we accept them unthinkingly, but when choosing whether to travel by car, rather than by an alternative means of transport, a passenger might weigh up the pros and cons: for example, the benefits of arriving at their destination quickly compared to the risk of a traffic accident.

Driverless cars bring that equation to the front of our minds again, with the added element that the presence of a driver gives the passenger confidence. The passenger can understand what the driver is doing, and they take comfort from the fact that the driver shares their sense of self-preservation and will avoid crashing the car. When presented with a driverless car, therefore, will the outcome of this equation deter passengers from using it at all?

Similarly, will a party trust an arbitration process that is driven by technology, or will they abandon it for another dispute resolution method? The new technology alters the equation, again. 

Or will they embrace the idea of technological change, but insist that a human remains on hand in case something goes wrong? The driverless taxis currently being deploy

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About the author:
Ben Giaretta, Partner at Fox Williams LLP, is an international arbitration lawyer with a wide range of experience across many different sectors.  He is a Chartered Arbitrator and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and is the current Chair of the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He is a member of the Consulting Editorial Board of Lexis PSL Arbitration.