Jul 012016

Last May 7 45-year-old Joshua Brown was killed when his car hit a truck just outside Willston, Florida. His Tesla was operating in ‘autopilot mode’ and he was the first death in a driverless car accident.

Now the investigation and the speculation into the Mr Brown’s unfortunate demise begin. It’s worth watching to see how the accident will change public perception and government regulation of autonomous vehicles.

What’s notable is Tesla are careful not to recommend leaving the car to its own devices, as The Verge reports.

Tesla reiterates that customers are required to agree that the system is in a “public beta phase” before they can use it, and that the system was designed with the expectation that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and that the driver is required to “maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.” Safety-critical vehicle features rolled out in public betas are new territory for regulators, and rules haven’t been set.

Another aspect that should concern users and regulators is Tesla’s software industry attitude towards liability and safety in dismissing the car’s flaws as being an unfortunate consequence of imperfect beta software. That may cut it in the world of Microsoft Windows 3.11 but it doesn’t cut it when lives are at stake in the motor industry.

  One Response to “The dangers of hands free driving”

  1. Three comments

    1. Yes, driverless vehicle incidents should certain be a concern.
    However, the number of person-driven car incidents is orders of magnitude higher . . .
    (not an argument to become too tolerant, on the contrary)

    2. Manufacturers attitude towards their responsibilities is worrying

    3. Legal issues exist, but are often blown out of proportion:
    the owner / user of a driverless vehicle carries the responsibility;
    where appropriate, the owner / driver may engage the responsibility of the party selling or renting the vehicle, in turn the manufacturer of the vehicle
    the legal issues with today’s self parking vehicles are not different: a self parking vehicle may hurt or kill a bystander (the vehicle’s sensors have significant blind angels and zones)

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