Look mum no hands! (Would you get into a car driven by Artificial Intelligence?)
by Jackie A
2 months ago
I'd rather try my luck on a Boeing 737 Max
That's a tad extreme considering they have been grounded after killing 346 people. (Another terrible tech problem.) Maybe you meant an electric scooter. They're quite dangerous - and illegal on public roads. Anyway - last week the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) decided that Tesla's Autopilot design was partly to blame for a crash early last year. So was the driver - for his "inattention and overreliance" on the Autopilot system.
You mean he had his hands off the wheel and was goofing around
Well in fairness, that is what most people (wrongly) think that auto-piloted cars are all about. Tesla paradoxically tells you - here is a car able to drive itself safely in traffic! But then it also advises: keep your hands on the wheel and pay attention while driving - and delivers intermittent warnings for drivers to put their hands back on the wheel.
You're in danger of sounding like an owner's manual. Can we have some details of this crash please?
Ok this male driver was driving his Tesla with the Autopilot system on in the carpooling lane (I mean), following behind another vehicle which suddenly changed lanes to avoid a parked fire truck. The Tesla weirdly accelerated and rear-ended the fire truck at 31mph. "A forward collision warning alert occurred 0.49 seconds prior to impact but the automatic emergency braking system did not engage" according to the NTSB report. The driver didn't have his hands on the wheel, obvs, and didn't bother breaking. Amazingly he wasn't injured.
So that "Autopilot" technology didn't work. I suppose this isn't the first time?
Correct. Joshua Brown became the first person to die in a self driving Tesla in May 2016, when a tractor trailer turning left crossed its path. The AI system didn't recognise the sizable vehicle — and the car smashed into its side, killing Brown instantly. In March this year there were two more Autopilot fatalities - when a Tesla Model 3 crashed into a truck and a Tesla Model X smashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire.
So none of the current "self driving" vehicles on the road are safe enough to drive without human intervention?
No. While Tesla Autopilot accidents are rare — rarer than those caused by human drivers by a long way — it doesn't help that Tesla's CEO tries hands-free driving with a journalist, as Elon Musk did last December. In his CBS appearance, Musk switches on Autopilot and drops his hands from the wheel. BTW the Model 3’s car manual tells users “you must keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times” during Autopilot.
Didn't someone shoot an adult movie in a self driving Tesla recently too?
Indeed. Adult actress Taylor Jackson apparently became the first to film a pornographic scene in a moving vehicle without a human driver earlier this year. A dangerous precedent, after which Musk blithely tweeted: "Turns out there's more ways to use Autopilot than we imagine", followed by lots of Model XXX jokes. No wonder the public is dangerously confused.
The problem with Elon Musk is that he's really clever while also being unreliably stupid. A bit like his car.
Earlier this year Musk claimed: "I think we will be feature complete — full self-driving — this year. I would say I am of certain of that. That is not a question mark." And so we can fall asleep in a Tesla and be driven home? (NB: the question mark). "Probably towards the end of next year. That is when I think it would be safe enough for that." So then not this year. I mean the man speaks in riddles. Expect more missed Musk deadlines.
Who else is trying to herd us into a computer on wheels?
Uber, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Addison Lee (srsly), Huawei (Uh oh), Ford, Fiat, VW, Continental, Audi, Apple, Bosch, Stagecoach, Samsung - they are all pouring billions into the driverless dream. All promise that when the AI is good enough (2021 is the magic year), deaths on the road - roughly 35,000 Americans die each year, 94 percent from human error - will be drastically cut.
Not convinced. Especially after last week's Tesla ruling. And especially after finding this Tesla video watched by 6.5 m people. Like a truly scary fairground ride. (Though I'm impressed with its car parking skills).