Just a few weeks ago, Uber halted their self-driving program in several cities after a self-driving Uber vehicle crashed into a woman, causing her death. Now, unfortunately, another death has been caused by a self-driving feature on a car. This time, it was Tesla’s Model X, which had its autopilot mode on, that crashed into a concrete barrier on a highway, leading to the fatality of the driver. This crash occurred on March 23rd and is the second crash leading to a death in America involving a Tesla car using the autopilot feature.
While the autopilot feature is able to perform many capabilities that a human driver is able to, Tesla does remind its customers that the autopilot is not a replacement for a human driver and that you must pay attention to the road at all times. This crash could have been avoided if the driver was paying attention; according to Tesla the driver of the car had about 5 seconds of clear sight of the barrier before the crash. Additionally, the driver’s hands were not placed on the wheel for 6 seconds prior to the crash. This means that the driver was likely not paying attention to the road and depended solely on the car to drive itself to the destination. When the autopilot is turned on, and your hands are not detected on the steering wheel for a prolonged period, the car gives several warnings before stopping. In the case of this driver, throughout the drive, several warning were given to the driver to put his hands on the wheel.
While The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruled that because Tesla’s system was working as advertised and Tesla should not be penalized, The National Transportation Safety Board has stated that Tesla does deserve some blame because, like many critics also believe, the autopilot mode convinces the user that it is better than it actually is, and is too easy to misuse. Especially since this incident is just recently after the Uber self-driving incident, it is easy to see why some people want the stop or slowing down of the advancing of self-driving technology. Tesla has addressed these concerns by pointing to a government report that shows the autopilot feature has reduced crash rates for Tesla vehicles by over 40%. The report also shows that the fatal crash rate for Tesla vehicles with autopilot capabilities is about 3.7 times better than the national average. It does seem like Tesla will get out of this situation without much blame, but the reputation of self-driving technology seems to be dropping due to this incident and prior ones. Tell us what you think in the comments below!
Source: Tesla Motors