Friday, January 20, 2017

Tesla wins important lawsuit regarding crash of self driving car

Back in the more liberal years, if you outsourced your personal safety and security to someone else (besides government of course) and something bad happened to you, you were almost guaranteed to win the lawsuit.  Why?  Because liberalism wants to reinforce that it is in fact possible and expected to be able to do this.  So when you died or got hurt because, for example, hot coffee spilled in your lap at McDonald's, it was their fault somehow.
Conservative minds believe that only a fool outsources his security to someone else and it was a conservative court that found Tesla not liable for an accident in which the owner was killed while relying on Tesla's current iteration of self driving car, "2015 Tesla Model S was operating under its Autopilot system on a state highway in Florida when it crashed into a tractor-trailer that was crossing the road in front of his car.  Tesla has said its camera failed to recognize the white truck against a bright sky. But the agency essentially found that Mr. Brown was not paying attention to the road. It determined he set his car’s cruise control at 74 miles per hour about two minutes before the crash, and should have had at least seven seconds to notice the truck before crashing into it.
Neither Autopilot nor Mr. Brown hit the brakes.

To be honest, it would seem that this kind of accident is exactly what the Autopilot system is supposed to prevent.  The fact that Tesla's technology did a shitty job of discerning truck from sky is not especially comforting IMO.  Why doesn't it at least have forward looking RADAR instead of relying on computer vision alone?  Also, this is not a small target that pulled out in front of the driver but rather a big truck.  It seems VERY generous of the powers that be to blame the whole accident on the driver when in fact the Tesla system failed in a very basic way.  Like I said, not everything about the new conservatism will be admirable...
If Tesla had lost and had to pay damages and do massive recalls it might have broken the company financially if not in spirit.  Toyota, as you can see, is broken in spirit due to all the massive lawsuits they lost regarding fly by wire gas pedal, etc.  They want to move slow and careful at this point whereas the powers that be need aggressive improvements.  So smaller players like Tesla will likely get a tail wind here.

The powers that be understand the importance of  achieving the productivity gains that this kind of automation will bring with it and so I predict that they will look the other way regarding technical shortcomings of the system to some degree and side with the technology provider, essentially telling the users that they better take an active role in their own safety and not just expect perfection out of the gate.  The authorities are also more likely to look at the big picture - how many accidents were avoided - not just those which were not.


Eric Sloan said...

I rode in a tesla with the auto pilot yesterday. They are careful to make sure you know it is in beta testing with disclaimers you have to agree to, etc, and the driver needs to keep their hands on the wheel or it will disengage the auto pilot. Having seen it, I would agree with the court.

Augustine said...

Tesla does rely on computer vision for long range sensing, unlike its competitors, who rely on both computer vision and radar. Yet, Tesla has the state of the art in autonomous driving, ahead of others.

However, truly autonomous driving had not been reached by any carmaker yet, not even Tesla. And, AFAIK, they all warn the driver that he must oversee the operation of the vehicle with the auto pilot engaged. If so, that's probably what spared Tesla in the courtroom.

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