Olivia Phillips


Despite global condemnation, sex trafficking continues to plague our world. Even in developed countries, the problem persists. Technological advancements, like the Internet, have spurred the development of organized sex trafficking networks and have made “transactions” easier. Although law enforcement agencies have tried to adapt their investigative techniques to combat the problem, developments in technology move at a much quicker rate.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will present a new set of challenges for law enforcement agencies in the fight against sex trafficking. In the not-too-distant future, AVs, or “self-driving cars,” will dominate the roadways. An AV will be completely aware of the surrounding world and will be programmed to respond appropriately to cues that it receives from these surroundings.

An AV should also be aware of the happenings inside its passenger compartment. Because an AV will perpetually focus on the roads, its human occupants can turn their attention elsewhere. A pimp, for instance, will be able to continuously monitor his reluctant, minor passenger. And, because the AV will obey all traffic laws, police are less likely to find cause to pull over an AV. Thus, AVs will make evading police detection easier for a sex trafficker.

This Comment argues that curtailing sex trafficking in an AV-dominated future requires imposing federal criminal liability on AV manufacturers for failing to equip their AVs with facial-recognition technology. First, this Comment examines current federal laws criminalizing sex trafficking and explains how these laws are insufficient to hold AV manufacturers criminally liable. Next, this Comment demonstrates how civil penalties and regulatory fines are insufficient deterrent mechanisms. Finally, this Comment proposes a statute that requires standards for the facial-recognition technology, imposes criminal liability for violations of such standards, and creates a federal commission authorized to set such standards.



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