Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Autopilot On


The owner of a Tesla Model S that crashed into a parked firetruck in Utah last Friday said she had the car’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system engaged at the time of the incident, police said Monday. More than likely, this crash will lead to yet more scrutiny around Tesla’s driving assistance system, which is already under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

In a statement, police in the city of South Jordan, Utah, reported that the 28-year-old female driver said in an interview that she had been using Autopilot at the time. The driver, police said, admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision.

Obviously you can blame the driver, but I think people usually miss the point of this stuff. In any individual case you can assign specific blame, but when thinking about designing systems that are supposed to be safe, you have to take into account inevitable human behavior. If you want to claim these things are safety enhancing, they have actually enhance safety in practice.

Even the biggest self-driving car boosters realized fairly early on that "it drives itself, but you still have to pay attention" couldn't work. More than that, it actually sucks worse than driving. Elon was just like, ah, fuck it, call it autopilot.