Self-driving cars getting bad press
On 19th March The Guardian reported that a self-driving Uber killed a woman in Arizona. This was the first fatal crash involving a self-driving car and a pedestrian. The Tempe police announced that although there was a vehicle operator inside the car, it was in autonomous mode at the time of the incident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed in a press release that any findings will be published ‘only after a comprehensive investigation’.
Uber did publish a tweet in acknowledgment of the incident:
Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident.
— Uber Comms (@Uber_Comms) 19 March 2018
Less than a week later, a driver of Model X ‘slammed into a concrete highway lane divider and burst into flames’. Tesla announced that the driver passed away. In an updated press release, Tesla revealed that ‘Autopilot was engaged’ and the driver had received visual and audible hands-on warning. Tesla’s investigations found that the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior the crash.
In a bid to defend their cars, Tesla described the seriousness of the crash being at the fault of the concrete lane divider. In addition, the press release stated that they ‘expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars’.
However, as reported by the BBC, the NTSB said they were ‘unhappy’ the firm had made public details of the probe. However, the BBC suggest that Tesla made their announcement ‘to avoid the detail [of the car being in Autopilot] leaking out and being confirmed without further context’.
This is not the first incident with a Tesla self-driving car:
– In 2016 it was reported that Tesla experienced the first fatality with a driverless car, but it was thought that the driver may have been ‘distracted’
– WIRED reported in January of this year that a Tesla Model S ‘slammed into the back of a stopped firetruck on the 405 freeway’ in LA. The driver reported that the car was in Autopilot mode was on at the time