|Imagine working out a divorce without hiring an attorney or stepping into court or disputing the tax assessment on your home completely online.
A Silicon Valley company is starting to make both possibilities a reality with software that experts say represents the next wave of technology in which the law is turned into computer code that can solve legal battles without the need for a judge or attorney.
"We're not quite at the Google car stage in law, but there are no conceptual or technical barriers to what we're talking about," said Oliver Goodenough, director of the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School, referring to Google's self-driving car.
The computer programs, at least initially, have the ability to relieve overburdened courts of small claims cases, traffic fines and some family law matters. But Goodenough and other experts envision a future in which even more complicated disputes are resolved online, and they say San Jose, California-based Modria has gone far in developing software to realize that.
"There is a version of the future when computers get so good that we trust them to play this role in our society, and it lets us get justice to more people because it's cheaper and more transparent," said Colin Rule, Modria's co-founder.
Officials in Ohio are using Modria's software to resolve disputes over tax assessments and keep them out of court, and a New York-based arbitration association has deployed it to settle medical claims arising from certain types of car crashes.
In the Netherlands, Modria software is being used to guide people through their divorces.