Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

Tesla Fatality and Autonomous Vehicles

I keep thinking about some of the implications of the recent Tesla driver fatality and a few aspects came to mind regarding autonomous vehicles.

One is did the car detect the accident (the top was sheared off I think) and if so how? Does it have accelerometers that detect a jolt indicating an accident and react accordingly? Would this event even have been noticed by an accelerometer?

In this case the car drove under a flat bed truck and may have continued at least for a bit. The accident might have had a better outcome if the car had impacted the truck directly rather than the way that it did which was bad luck.

Another consideration is related to the car awareness of the driver condition. By that I mean what if the driver had a heart attack or seizure and did not touch anything that would get the car’s attention. Is it possible that a driver could become incapacitated or even die and the car not be aware of it and continue on until it reaches a destination? The stipulation of driving modes such as this is that the driver is supposed to maintain continual awareness. The reality is that it will become easy and tempting to do something else. Aircraft autopilots have been criticized because they reduce pilot direct flying activities, increase dependence on the autopilot and may erode pilot skills as a result.

The idea of a driver becoming a systems monitor will probably not become mainstream anytime soon.

This accident will likely delay the appearance of the fully autonomous vehicle because it raised the awareness of the complexity of driving and visibility conditions and unexpected events.

Until a vehicle can mimic the same level of vision, particularly field of view, and interpretation of what is seen, heard and felt by a human I am not sure that full autonomy will occur without continued risk.

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