A couple of weeks ago Elaine Herzberg was walking across a dark street in Tempe, Arizona and a self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed her. Video reveals the woman more or less came out of nowhere on the darkened road. The driver — can we call them that? Maybe pilot might be a better term — of the Volvo wasn’t looking at the road until a split-second before Herzberg was struck.
Uber Technologies has settled with Herzberg’s daughter — who immediately retained council — and husband. Terms of the settlement have not been released.
This incident combined with a crash by a self-driven Tesla Model X that killed the driver. In that accident, the driver — Tesla said — was told by the computer to take the wheel. He ignored the warning, hit a highway divider and then was hit by two other vehicles. After that the Tesla X caught fire.
“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” the Tesla incident release stated.
This has many wondering whether we are quite ready for this technological leap. Toyota North America Chief Executive Jim Lentz said yes. His position is we’ll see mistakes from these vehicles and we’ll see 100, 500 or even 1,000 deaths in accidents like that with the Tesla vehicle or Uber’s in Tempe.
“The big question for government is: How much risk are they willing to take? If you can save net 34,000 lives, are you willing to potentially have 10 or 100 or 500 or 1,000 people die? And I think the answer to that today is they are not willing to take that risk — and that’s going to really slow down the adoption of autonomous driving,” he said.
Tesla agrees. In its statement about its self-driving vehicle the company said, “Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents — such a standard would be impossible — but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.”
Source links: Reuters, The Hill, Carrier Management