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Self-Driving Car Woes

Things aren't so hot for self-driving cars right now.

First Pedestrian Death Involving Self-Driving Car

On March 18 in Arizona, a self-driving vehicle operated by Uber struck a woman who was crossing the street. She died later in the hospital. In Uber's defense, the woman was apparently crossing the street outside of the crosswalk. But crosswalk or no, this appears to be the first fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian. And it showed how poorly this particular self-driving vehicle handled an emergent situation - its failure to avoid someone who unexpectedly steps out into the street.

Another Fatal Wreck Involving Tesla's Autopilot Mode

Then on March 23 in California, a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode crashed into a concrete barrier. The driver (perhaps the accurate term is "passenger") died in the wreck. As per reports, the Model X failed to recognize the barrier as a barrier - though exact details are not yet known - and had swerved toward it in the past. In Tesla's defense, the company argued that the driver did not take any corrective action on his own prior to the crash.

We're Not Ready Yet

Tesla is stoutly defending itself by claiming that Autopilot saves lives. "No one knows about the accidents that didn't happen," went Tesla's response, "only the ones that did."

That may be true.

But it's also true that we have some significant kinks to work out here. Human operators still need to pay attention. Autopilot is the new distracted driving.

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