“Drivers” Who Aren’t . . . Who Gets the Bill?

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Another auto-piloted Tesla has crashed into another car – two cars, actually – over the weekend. The Tesla’s “driver” – in quotes to ironicize the obvious – was reportedly “checking on his dog” in the back seat when his car rammed into a Connecticut State Police cruiser and then ping-ponged into another car that was parked on the shoulder of the road.

Several interesting questions come to mind – again. Including one probable inevitability that hasn’t been much discussed but which will eventually affect all of us, including those of us who prefer to be drivers rather than meatsacks driven around by autopiloted (and glaucomic) cars.

The first question is – who’s responsible for these crashes? Is it the “driver” who uses technology specifically designed to avoid the need for him to drive? Or is it the company which designed the technology that – its protestations and lawyer-ese notwithstanding – encourages the “driver” to abdicate responsibility for driving the car?

Tesla says, of course, that the “driver” must be “ready to intervene at all times” – which (for those who remember it) is wink-win-speak like that used to market the catalytic converter “test pipes” you used to be able to buy at auto parts stores back in the ‘80s. These, too, had the necessary for-legal-purposes verbiage. But everyone understood the “test” would be ongoing. Just as everyone understands that the whole point of Autopilot is to not pilot.

Else why bother with it at all?

If the driver is expected to keep his eyes on the road and be ready to “intervene” at all times and be responsible for what the car does, then he is still driving – in which case Autopilot and all other varieties of automated driving tech are elaborate but fundamentally useless gimmicks that ought to be banned for the same reason you can’t buy a catalytic converter test pipe anymore.

For a better reason.

Catalytic converter test pipes never hurt anyone. Autopiloted cars have already killed several people. Including people not in the Autopiloted cars.

Innocent victims, in other words.

More will be killed, inevitably – the more this technology filters into general use. Teslas are not the only cars that have it. Several high-end non-electric cars, including those made by  Cadillac and Mercedes and BMW have similar technology and – unless it’s illegalized, which the government (usually so “concerned” for our “safety”) seems very reluctant to even consider  – more and more cars will soon have it because gadget-mania is now the principle “sell” for new cars, electric and not. People love to tap and swipe – and do anything except drive.

Which this technology – it’s necessary to repeat – encourages them not to do.

Burt when they wreck – or rather, when the car wrecks – who will get the bill? Should it be the “driver” – who is still legally-speaking supposed to be “ready to intervene” at all times – even though it’s understood he won’t be, if he uses the tech . . .  or will it be the manufacturer of the tech, which at least implicitly encourages the “driver” to not drive, in the manner of perpetually “testing” the catalytic converter?

Well, I’ve got news for you sunshine.

The bill will be handed out to all of us.  Including those of us who want nothing to do with automated driving technology – but who’ll be dunned by the insurance mafia, to recover the costs imposed (in metal and flesh) imposed by automated driving technology. Our premiums will rise – not because we imposed in any costs – and even though we haven’t wrecked – in order to “cover” the costs of those who did and have.

If you don’t think so – and don’t understand how – allow me (per Jules from Pulp Fiction) to elucidate.

We are already paying more for the high repair costs of modern, government-mandated cars. Even if we drive older cars with fewer government-mandated “features,” such as six air bags and back-up cameras. Because when cars so equipped are wrecked, they cost – and someone’s gotta pay.

Guess who?

These costs are too much to be born by the individual owners of government-mandated cars, so they’re spread out to owners of all cars. Your premiums increase because of what it’ll cost to fix your neighbor’s car if he hits you.

These costs included the higher repair costs imposed by the de facto mandated design of modern cars, including paper-thin exterior sheetmetal that can be bent by hand (and crumpled beyond repairability in minor accidents), plastic front and rear ends that shear off in the same minor accidents and expensive to repair aluminum body parts – all of them now common attributes of new/late-model cars, resorted to in order to cut down on weight and so increase MPGs – but without compromising the car’s ability to pass government-mandated crash tests (the beneath-the-skin structure of the car comes into play here).

The cars pass the tests – but they’re much more expensive to fix. They are not infrequently thrown away because they’re too expensive to fix.  

Now fold into the mix the costs (in steel and flesh) of automated car wrecks – which will continue to happen for the same reason that planes still crash and rockets blow up on the launch pad sometimes. Technology made by fallible creatures isn’t infallible. Things will get broken – and worse – and that means someone’s going to have to pay for it.

And because insurance is mandatory – you won’t be allowed to say no to “covering” the cost of fixing other people’s automated cars nor for the mayhem they cause – the cost of your “coverage is going to go up.

Again.

. . .

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Amen, Eric. If any other company had introduced and promoted this self-driving feature in the way Tesla has, they’d have had the pants sued off them by now. But Telsa gets a pass, because Elon and the top trial lawyers are all part of the same elite, “progressive” club.

    I wonder, though, if the clock may be running down on Elon. For many years he’s been like Wile E. Coyote when he runs off the side of a cliff — he hangs there forever, defying gravity, without noticing the void beneath him. But the coyote always ended up splattered on the canyon floor, and so will Elon. Some articles like this give me the sense that the tide is already starting to turn:

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/shocked-strategist-says-sell-tesla-i-dont-give-a-toss-if-he-is-a-visionary-2019-12-09?mod=home-page

  2. Eric actually it will mostly be the insurance company that pays. If Tesla’s are in more crashes than regular autos then the insurance will increase. The problem is if Tesla’s numbers are correct their auto-driving is safer than the actual drivers that are dumb enough to buy a Tesla.

    Just because every Tesla that crashes under auto driving makes front page news that does not mean our current crop of human drivers are better. I know I am looking forward to a day when my car can drive me home from a bar / restaurant rather than my wife, that is truly dangerous, just legal.

      • How?

        Most elderly drivers cannot drive very well let alone see. I know I am not going down quietly giving up my freedom from driving when I get old. At middle age I have driven well in excess of 3 million miles with no accidents my own fault, well other than scraping my own truck against my trailer in my driveway, no insurance involved.

        I know now we have way too many useless victimless laws, your higher expectation of drivers would just require more laws and they would not be very effective.

        • Hi Ozzy,

          This one’s pretty easy! We go back to the harm-caused standard. We don’t punish anyone for harms they haven’t caused – on the basis that they might. But hold individuals fully accountable when they do cause harm. No more wealth transfer (as via mandated insurance) from the people who haven’t caused harm to those who do.

          This would immediately raise the bar by rewarding competence – and discouraging incompetence.

        • I was involved in an accident the other day. Some young person on the phone hit my rear while stopped at a light. One of the main reasons for not calling the cops was I am 70. This would go down as another geezer in an accident regardless of fault. When one geezer goes the wrong way on a freeway immediately we are all guilty. Stats are manipulated,twisted, and bent. Also my insurance would likely go up. I can handle the dent better then the higher rates. As for driving I have a deal with my wife who is much younger. If I start driving erratically, etc,,, I stop driving.

      • “Yes, but it begs the question eh? Why not expect more of drivers? ”

        “Most elderly drivers cannot drive very well let alone see. I know I am not going down quietly giving up my freedom from driving when I get old. ”

        In a nutshell.

        The selfish masses lack personal responsibility for their actions and so are willing to let the government handle all responsibility, no matter how much freedom it is going to cost….you.

        • Hi Anon,

          In re this: “Most elderly drivers cannot drive very well let alone see. I know I am not going down quietly giving up my freedom from driving when I get old. ”

          But the person who wrote the above is “giving up my freedom from driving ” (sic). They are turning their mobility over to the government-corporate nexus, which will decide when, where and how they “drive.”

      • And Tesla won’t pay, because they’re agents of the state, making subsidized EVs at the demand of the state. Non autonomous cars do fit right in current culture, where everything is always someone else’s fault. Also since EVs are demanded by the state, raising rates on them will likely be prohibited. The Sociopaths In Charge will always stick it to those the most defenseless.

    • Yes Ozzy. Women in general are really poor drivers. Especially if there are other females in the car. And especially like my SIL who drives on the highway at speeds 30 kph below the going traffic speed.

  3. “And because insurance is mandatory – you won’t be allowed to say no to “covering” the cost of fixing other people’s automated cars nor for the mayhem they cause – the cost of your “coverage is going to go up.”

    My guess is different cars get different insurance rates. So non Tesla owners will get their own rate for insurance, which might be less than other people. Why are you assuming that over the entire Tesla fleet there are more or worse accidents?

    In the case cited, it appears there were no injuries, which is impressive. I suspect the owner of the Tesla will get a replacement from Tesla. It is also unclear what autopilot did. Autopilot may have taken actions to reduce the damage.

    I can imagine elderly people benefiting from Tesla driving the car and the human double checking Tesla autopilot. It is also possible Tesla autopilot is less annoying to a person like yourself than having a ‘clover’ driving unassisted.

  4. I cannot conceive that ‘driverless’ cars will ever succeed unless drivers can be taught to think the same way GA pilots are taught — that the automation, from three-axis autopilot to WAAS GPS navigation to the array of “Bitchin’ Betties” that demand that we check our landing gear, our angle of attack, our fuel state….are not there to fly the plane for us, but to reduce our mental workload and fatigue so that we can concentrate on the parts of flying that only humans can do — including constantly monitoring the state of the various automated systems so that a system failure does not go unnoticed. But as others have stated, we can’t even teach drivers to put their damn phones down, accelerate to merge, or stay out of the left lane if they’re not passing. ‘Driverless’ cars are just a halfway house towards having the roads turned into glorified railbeds, with the vehicles controlled by external ‘monitors.’

    And BTW — I’ve been involved in three aircraft accident investigations in the past five years, including a double fatal. and I wouldn’t trust the NTSB to identify the ‘root cause’ of a ground-looped Taylorcraft.

    • I also grew up with GA, as both my parents were pilots. Truth is, most folks can only just manage travel in 2 dimensions without a mishap or a panic attack, or letting their mind wander, even before cell-phones. The “pilot” who makes a habit of “driving” his aircraft, generally ends up dead. Even wealth, fame, and business smarts do not translate into piloting skills, as was the case with JFK Jr’s brief stint as PIC. Automation in cars is, for me a nuisance which actually distracts me from concentrating on driving and situational awareness, but seems to be a welcome diversion to many of the distracted “drivers” on the road. Also, many of the automated features such as door locks, lights, and auto-start/stop are a damned annoyance when servicing cars and trucks.

  5. Dead right on, Eric. Just like we all pay for the government to pass out generous buying credits towards EV’s. Actually, the auto maker, the software maker, the driver and the government should be made to pay the costs of these crashes. And all refuse to accept responsibility, and that is no surprise. All types of insurance are based on the many paying for the few. It can work no other way. Just push the agenda no matter who gets killed or goes broke paying for it. How do we, the non-technology accepting public, change this nonsense? We don’t because there is no choice as both political parties are behind the move to extinguish carbon based energy and take away as many of our freedoms as they can before we outright revolt. There is no one in power who speaks for the sane citizen.

  6. “more research is needed” aka more collateral damage, death, etc. Arrogant fucktards need to be strapped to the hood their own “smart” inventions, and then we will see changes, or at least some very soiled Armannis and Guccis, lol!

  7. Responsible drivers get the damage, the bill and the Bullshit from Uncle AND the Insurance Mafia. Automation and Computers CAN NOT make judgement calls (automatons such as govt. bureaucrats do all the time, but that’s another rant), only alert Human drivers can (another reason bureaucrats shouldn’t be behind the wheel). The Tesla injury and fatality rate has exceeded that of the “infamous” Chevy Corvair, so where is that ass-licking, non-driving Ralph Nader? Shouldn’t all the MADD groupies, and Nader-ites, and Safety Nazis being eating Tesla, and Musk, alive by now? Not as long as he is Uncle’s Golden Boy, and that isn’t even the tip of the “berg”, as they say. If I ran my business the way Musk is “managing” Tesla, I would have been under criminal indictment for what he gets public funding to do! What we need is a National Plumber the size of Paul Bunyan, to unstop the sewer pipes and flush all these turds we have floating in the public toilet, any takers?

    • Hi Graves!

      Yup. As you and I and others here understand perfectly well, Elon (and automated driving tech) gets an exemption because it’s what’s wanted… by the government-corporate nexus, I mean. The only time “concern” is shown is when it suits . . . the government-corporate nexus.

      • So Vonu takes me to task when I say a driver(human)can catch a glimpse, the briefest glimpse of something that may be a danger well down the road but (I) couldn’t possibly have the range of vision that autopilot car has. Yeah, I guess this one was drunk.

        I got the feeling one day the driver of this pickup wasn’t paying attention. Next thing I know, and luckily I had slowed down, the pickup just keeps on going to the left, slams into a guardrail and crashes back into the roadway…..on I 20 with the speed of traffic averaging about 80. Others were braking and swerving and I had no idea how many wrecks were narrowly avoided or actually were had behind me as I whipped onto the shoulder and passed the wrecked truck. I wouldn’t have done anything but possibly cause many more wrecks had I slammed on the brakes since I was unloaded at the time.

  8. It’s impossible to discuss this intelligently with today’s mentally challenged folks. Yesterday I was hit from behind by a young man toying with his phone. He was so arrogant he was still tapping away when he got out of the car to assess the damage which was minor. Had I been on my motorcycle it would have been much more serious. Due to weather I took the Frontier. He hopped back in his car and was still tapping on his phone.
    Automatic driving cars, using phones while driving is insanity and downright scary knowing Corpgov has no intention of stopping either as it’s desire to know everything about us and what we’re doing is all consuming.

    • Who owns the roads? If there were private roads the owners would probably come to the same conclusion. Or perhaps an agreed on third party could serve the role of NTSB.

  9. The obvious solution is to adapt the NTSB approach to aircraft crashes. Determine what happened in an environment of root cause analysis. Of course the number of aircraft is a bit fewer than the number of automobiles, so isn’t really a practical one. And overwhelming number of investigations the root cause is pilot error, even when it isn’t.

    Aircraft have automatic landing systems and autopilots for cruising. But there’s also a very elaborate network of radio beacons and other navigation aides that the automation uses to get around. And the sky is pretty big for the relatively small number of aircraft. Don’t forget there’s an entire army of air traffic controllers, flight planning and airline flight desks that manage the planes. And even then, the pilot in command has final say and responsibility. I have to laugh at some of the old GM Futurama shorts, where the family is in the bubble car and dad calls the “tower” for clearance to enter the highway. So many things wrong. No traffic to speak of, no solar heating from sitting in a terrarium, and the traffic controllers are just sitting around ready to assist immediately. Even in 1950s traffic that would be impossible.

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