With all this excitement and innovation in the field of autonomous vehicles, there is still an atmospheric tension that people can’t seem to shake. Especially when one considers that in order to drive you have to be trained by an expert to have a keen eye, firm control and superb road awareness, and even then there were a reported 140,086 personal-injury road traffic accidents in 2015.
So why trust a car that can drive its self? Many have argued that the pinpoint precision, lightning fast computers and 360 degree sensory receptors will be able to handle a larger multitude of situations better than humans ever could, but reports of a fatal accident in the new Telsa Model S in self-drive mode last week proved that this may not be the case.
It must be pointed out however, that Tesla have pointed out the fact that the autopilot was not to be used on its own, and required two hands to be at the wheel at all time since it was in its “public beta phase”.
A public beta phase means that the autopilot software was released and distributed to be tested by a large range of people, this testing would be more extensive than Tesla would be able to do in their own point of manufacture, and would also allow for feedback from a large audience.
However, when people think of beta products they usually do not associate them with such tragic consequences, which questions whether this was a freak accident, or whether Tesla had released the beta product too soon.
Indeed. Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder also commented on this. He was reported to say that “Beta products shouldn’t have such life-and-death consequences”.
There is currently an ongoing investigation into the issue to judge whether the cause of the issue was human error or a computer malfunction. Tesla said this on the matter; “Until the investigation into the tragic incident concludes, we won’t know whether it was caused by a software glitch or human error – particularly with reports suggesting the driver may have been watching a Harry Potter DVD. All we know is that “neither autopilot nor the driver” noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against the brightly lit sky “so the brake was not applied”.