Pardon the Disruption: The Future You Never Saw Coming has some of his colleagues asking whether he is really serious.
“I’m doing what trial lawyers do. We take complex subjects and break them down so everyone can understand them. I am just asking questions and getting the dialogue started.”
There are an estimated 35,000 deaths and 400,000 catastrophic injuries a year in the US related to motor vehicle accidents. Litigation related to assigning liability and collecting damages related to those accidents makes up a large part of personal injury lawyer practices in hundreds of law firms across the country.
As Rawlins sees it, we are closer to seeing robotic vehicles on our roads and highways than most people realize. The implications for lawyers and litigants alike are huge. He thinks we will be there certainly within the next decade.
“Almost all collisions right now are pilot error,” says Rawlins. “Drivers are drunk or fatigued or distracted, or too old or too young, or too inexperienced. The have to carry expensive insurance because they are held accountable for the accidents and injuries they cause.
“Since the robotic vehicle is run by machine intelligence, it will be highly competent,” says Rawlins. “Crashes are going to be few and far between. When they happen, the manufacturer will be in the best position to know who is at fault. It will either be a hardware problem or a software problem, and it will be the auto manufacturer that will have to recover from either one or both of those suppliers for the injured party.
“Right now you need a lot of catastrophic injury lawyers to deal with the outcomes,” he adds.
“But the personal injury lawyer by 2025 is going to be few and far between.
“All those numbers will collapse because you remove the human factor with machine intelligence,” says Rawlins. “Of course it is humans that are doing the design and manufacturing, but that human error is going to be massively less than human pilot clearly.”
A self-effacing and engaging personality, Rawlins knows that some of his colleagues find his observations to be wildly off the charts. “They say, ‘Clay, how is anyone ever going to take you seriously again?’”
“I am not writing science fiction here,” says Rawlins. “The naysayers just scoff because this is not something they can really imagine.
“In 1960, a mainframe computer cost $400 million and weighed 29,000 pounds. Now some kid in the Serengeti holding a four-ounce cell phone has more communication capacity in his hand than Bill Clinton had when he was president of the wealthiest nation on earth in 1992,” he adds. “The pace of technology is streaking through time like a meteor.”
Rawlins once served as a District Attorney in Texas and now practices personal litigation and criminal law. Four years ago he obtained Strategic Foresight Certification from the University of Houston.
“I knew that robotic transportation would be the end of what I do for a living and I wanted the tools to methodically and scientifically look at this issue with something other than gut reaction,” he says.
His book has not been a runaway bestseller - yet. He’s sold only 1,000 copies. But Rawlins is in demand. He has given 21 interviews in just two weeks and did an hour-long guest spot on Coast to Coast late night radio with George Noory.
And Rawlins has been invited to speak at the World Future 2014 Convention in Orlando, Florida, on July 11-13.
“If handled properly, our society will be magnificently better,” says Rawlins. “If handled improperly, maybe we descend into a dystopian hell.”
Clay Rawlins is a personal injury and criminal lawyer in Houston, Texas. He has been practicing personal injury law for 20 years. His book is available through Amazon.com.