Another auto-piloted Tesla has crashed into another car – two cars, actually – over the weekend. The Tesla’s “driver” – in quotes to ironicize the obvious – was reportedly “checking on his dog” in the back seat when his car rammed into a Connecticut State Police cruiser and then ping-ponged into another car that was parked on the shoulder of the road.
Several interesting questions come to mind – again. Including one probable inevitability that hasn’t been much discussed but which will eventually affect all of us, including those of us who prefer to be drivers rather than meatsacks driven around by autopiloted (and glaucomic) cars.
The first question is – who’s responsible for these crashes? Is it the “driver” who uses technology specifically designed to avoid the need for him to drive? Or is it the company which designed the technology that – its protestations and lawyer-ese notwithstanding – encourages the “driver” to abdicate responsibility for driving the car? Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $50.00 (as of 04:25 EST - Details)
Tesla says, of course, that the “driver” must be “ready to intervene at all times” – which (for those who remember it) is wink-win-speak like that used to market the catalytic converter “test pipes” you used to be able to buy at auto parts stores back in the ‘80s. These, too, had the necessary for-legal-purposes verbiage. But everyone understood the “test” would be ongoing. Just as everyone understands that the whole point of Autopilot is to not pilot.
Else why bother with it at all?
If the driver is expected to keep his eyes on the road and be ready to “intervene” at all times and be responsible for what the car does, then he is still driving – in which case Autopilot and all other varieties of automated driving tech are elaborate but fundamentally useless gimmicks that ought to be banned for the same reason you can’t buy a catalytic converter test pipe anymore.
For a better reason.
Catalytic converter test pipes never hurt anyone. Autopiloted cars have already killed several people. Including people not in the Autopiloted cars.
Innocent victims, in other words.