Let’s Not Forget The Public Health Crisis of Human Driving

Earlier this week, Elaine Herzber was tragically killed in an accident involving an Uber autonomous vehicle.  Elaine was walking her bicycle across the street and was struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle.  She died at the hospital.

This accident should cause us to reflect and consider what happened.  Uber should assess why its autonomous technology did not detect Elaine.  Other manufacturers should assess whether their autonomous technologies would have detected Elaine.  However, this accident should not cause manufacturers to slow down or otherwise halt their development of autonomous vehicles.

You might ask why we should not slow down or otherwise halt the development of these vehicles.  The answer is simple: human driving is a public health crisis.

The Fatal Flaw of Semi-Autonomous Vehicles

Imagine that you own a semi-autonomous vehicle.  You purchased the vehicle months ago and each time you put the vehicle into autopilot mode, the vehicle drives safely.  Your semi-autonomous vehicle’s ability to drive safely and (perhaps) better than you has made you over-reliant on and have overconfidence in the technology’s ability, causing you to have automation bias.  Thus, today you decide that on your morning commute you will read a book while your vehicle makes the same drive on the highway.   Today, however, your semi-autonomous vehicle encounters a firetruck parked on the highway while traveling at 65 miles per hour.  Your semi-autonomous vehicle fails to see the firetruck and smashes into the back of the firetruck.  You may have to imagine this situation happening to you, but an unlucky owner of a Tesla Model S did not have to imagine this situation when his Tesla smashed into a firetruck last week in California.