Sunday, July 03, 2016

Man dies in self-driving car

In an embarrassing turn of events, which could just conceivably mark the beginning of the end for the development of self-driving cars (or at least a serious back-to-the-drawing-board moment), a Florida man was killed while driving a Tesla Model S electric car in autopilot or self-driving mode.
I don't consider myself a Luddite exactly, but the idea of sef-driving cars has always slightly worried me. News of the first self-driving fatality may set the technology back years. The whole premise of self-driving cars has always been that computers are capable of operating a car more safely than a human. If that premise can be seen to fail in such a simple scenario, then maybe the whole premise is at risk.
The accident occurred when a tractor-trailor made a left turn in front of the car, and the Tesla's sophisticated software, computers, cameras and radar all failed to "see" the white truck against a brightly-lit sky, throwing doubt on whether the tech can be relied on to make those split-second life-or death decisions it is supposed to excel at.
The circumstances of the crash were admittedly unusual, but the safety record of the technology, which is still undergoing ongoing testing both in controlled conditions and on the open road, needs to be proven to be beyond reproach before it can be licensed, and before it will be accepted by the general public. One fatal accident like this, even after millions of miles of successful testing, is just not good enough.

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