Tesla Faces Backlash Over Autopilot Technology in Wake of Crash

Tesla Model S, Image: Tesla Motors

Safety advocates are claiming Tesla’s reputation as a top innovator in the automotive globe could breed overconfidence in its new technology, placing drivers in danger.

The May possibly 7 death of a Tesla driver whose automobile collided with a tractor trailer even though in “Autopilot” mode sparked renewed calls for proper vetting of sophisticated technologies in production vehicles — particularly if the technologies permits the car to drive itself.

Joshua Brown was killed on a Florida highway after his 2015 Tesla Model S’s Autopilot mistook a brightly-lit tractor trailer crossing the highway as the sky. The autonomous driving system didn’t react to the obstacle, leading to a fatal collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now investigating the Model S and its Autopilot method.

Following the crash, the truck’s driver, Frank Baressi, claimed the victim was watching a film at the time of the crash, saying he could hear the film Harry Potter playing from the Tesla’s wreckage.

Tesla automobiles cannot play videos on their infotainment screens, but Reuters now reports that the Florida Highway Patrol located a portable, aftermarket DVD player in the wreckage of Brown’s automobile. Brown was a great fan of Tesla and its Autopilot technology, uploading many dashcam videos to his YouTube page, including one particular displaying the system avoiding a collision with a truck earlier this year.

Police said no video recording device — mounted to the dash or elsewhere — was discovered in the wreckage.

Tesla markets the Autopilot program as a driver’s help, preserving that drivers nonetheless need to have to be conscious of their surroundings and prepared to respond to danger although the program is activated. The mere presence of the technologies, nonetheless, could lead to overconfidence in its abilities.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, criticized the practice of “beta” testing — getting shoppers test and help increase new technology by way of genuine-globe use.

“Allowing automakers to do their personal testing, with no distinct guidelines, indicates consumers are going to be the guinea pigs in this experiment,” stated Gillan. “This is going to take place once more and once more and once more.”

Joan Claybrook, automotive safety advocate and former NHTSA director, said the “trial-and-error technique” is a threat to public security.

“The history of the auto market is they test and test and test,” she told Bloomberg. “This is a life-and-death issue.”

Anticipate the Florida crash to make other automakers further cautious about perfecting their own autonomous driving technology (or semi-autonomous driving aids) ahead of generating it offered in production cars. In March, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind gave the regulator a six month timeline in which to develop federal rules for self-driving vehicles.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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