The first fatality in a car that is self-driving is tragic. Joshua Brown was an unlucky guinea pig, who was putting his full trust in his Tesla Model S’s Autopilot mode – an unfortunate mistake. Tesla have said that the driver must remain alert while trying out this mode. From news reports it appears he didn’t, as he was watching a Harry Potter movie while in the car. The Autopilot mode is still in beta but Tesla also claimed that it is “getting better all the time”.
It should have much fewer problems as time goes on when the mistakes and errors are rooted out of the software. And Tesla even went as far as saying that statistically speaking, if a driver remains alert and ready to grab the wheel, driving in Autopilot mode is still a good bit safer than regular driving.
Sadly, there will be more deaths caused by cars self-driving in the future. This particular instance is just a short-term setback for Tesla, and for the self-driving car industry as a whole. In the future the statistics may add up showing that cars in a self-driving mode still result in far fewer deaths or indeed accidents than cars with human drivers. I suppose one can’t help be sympathetic to peoples’ fears of cars being able to self-drive as a consequence of this accident. We clearly are in a transition period which may last many years, and every accident will keep people nervous about trusting self-driving cars. It may be a case of people needing to try them out to ease their nerves.
But frankly, given the amount of road accidents that lead to horrific injuries and deaths that could be preventable with future itineration’s of self-driving car software, it seems that the future of widespread self-driving cars is still sorely needed.