A fatal car accident involving a Tesla Model S has raised questions about the safety of vehicles with automatic driving features. Tesla’s Model S uses Autopilot, a built-in feature that utilizes cameras and sensors to guide vehicles and apply brakes. Why did the Tesla Model S accident happen?
According to Tesla, the accident happened because Autopilot could not tell the difference between a brightly lit sky and the side of a white semi-truck approaching the Model S from a perpendicular position. Autopilot did not apply the brakes and instead attempted to drive under the semi-truck, killing the passenger.
If Autopilot could not accurately tell the difference between the side of a semi-truck and the sky, it would confirm concerns critics have voiced about self-driving technology.
Why Self-Driving Cars Need More Testing
Tesla is not the only auto manufacturer racing to create self-driving technology. The Guardian recently published an article discussing how sensors on self-driving cars may not operate effectively under certain conditions.
Unpredictable environments: Self-driving vehicles might not make sense of unpredictable urban environments. Construction zones and roads without lane dividers might confuse self-driving vehicles.
Adverse weather: These high-tech vehicles may have problems operating during severe weather conditions such as snow or rain. In fact, Google has even admitted that its vehicles cannot operate during rainy weather. Google has recently moved testing of its driverless cars to Seattle (where it rains often) to remedy this issue.
Other people: Self-driving vehicles will have to learn to drive with other people. Unfortunately, other people are highly unpredictable.
There is no doubt that self-driving or driverless cars will improve our safety in the near future. However, it is clear that these vehicles still need testing to overcome specific barriers. Just because vehicles have self-driving features does not mean it is safe to use mobile phones or become inattentive.