Rabbi Daniel Nevins visits CRNE

Every Shabbat afternoon, the tzevet (staff) at our machane (camp) has the pleasure of attending a shiur (lesson).  This past Shabbat, our shiur was taught by Rabbi Danny Nevins (pictured below), Dean of the Rabbinical School at JTS (the Jewish Theological Seminary), on the halakha of autonomous vehicles.  It encompassed a fascinating review of various texts that relate to this issue, presented by Rabbi Nevins in a clear fashion.  Many questions were raised by those in attendance, and rich discussion ensued with regard to the ethical, moral, philosophical, practical and halachic aspects.  This was a wonderfully engaging presentation  and discussion that illustrated the vibrancy and relevance of the halachic process in general, and in our Movement in particular.

The introduction to his presentation: “The automotive industry is making rapid progress in bringing fully autonomous vehicles to market.  Already many cars have assistive technology to keep cars in lane, apply brakes in an emergency, and even rouse drowsy drivers.  These life-saving features are uncontroversial.  But self-driving cars are coming soon, with Ford and GM in the lead, and Silicon Valley tech companies also rushing to market.  Many are the anticipated benefits: safety, improved traffic flow, enhanced mobility for young and old, lower fuel consumption, reduced needs for parking in cities, etc.  Still, there are technical, legal, financial, cultural and ethical questions posed by the emerging technology.  Who will be liable for accidents involving autonomous vehicles — the owners, the passengers, or the manufacturers? How will insurance claims be handled? Will these vehicles give greater mobility to the poor or widen the divide between rich and poor? Issues of financial and legal liability can be left to the civil authorities under the rubric of ‘the law of the land applies’.  What about halakhic considerations?”

And the shiur began here!

Rabbi Daniel Nevins is the Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and dean of the Division of Religious Leadership of The Jewish Theological Seminary. He represents JTS on the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism and the Executive Council, Joint Placement Commission, and Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly. He has written responsa on the halakhic topics of personal status, disabilities, bioethics, technology, and homosexuality.