As of June 20th, two U.S. government agencies have already released reports on the May 2016 death of Joshua Brown, who was riding a Tesla Model S sedan that collided with a tractor-trailer. Brown had been using the Tesla on autopilot mode. According to Reuters, the autopilot had alerted Brown multiple times to take the wheel but he did not comply up until the fatal crash.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have said that Brown’s behavior led to his death, rather than anything wrong with the vehicle.
Driverless cars has been hailed by proponents, including the NHTSA, as one of the most effective ways to reduce or prevent some 30,000 traffic-related deaths that happen yearly in the U.S. With computers and A.I. driving the vehicle, there’s less chance that distracted or incompetent drivers can cause accidents.
But some have pointed that there are still roadblocks on the way to the envisioned autonomous driving utopia. For one thing, the technology isn’t perfect. Back when Tesla was first pushing to put its autonomous vehicles on actual roads, CEO Elon Musk was accused of endangering people with immature technology.
Another obstacle is the fact that today’s roads sorely lack the infrastructure to support an influx of autonomous vehicles. As the Detroit Free Press pointed out, roads still lack the sensors and communications network to help multiple autonomous vehicles “talk” to each other and navigate the environment.
Furthermore, current public policy and traffic rules were created and are enforceable only to non-autonomous vehicles so just imagine how much needs to change on this front.
Still, autonomous vehicles paint a compelling vision of the future and as the Wall Street Journal notes, will change society as we know it today.
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