Elon Musk is probably taking a knee right now. Not because Black Lives Matter – but because riots on that pretext have shunted attention away from another Auto-piloted crash.
Last year, a Tesla decapitated itself by running into – and underneath – a tractor trailer it didn’t “see.” Neither did its driver, who saw nothing ever again – after his decapitation. Now another Tesla has done the four-wheeled Louis XVI – losing its head to a semi it didn’t “see.”
Tesla, of course, blames the driver – whom it encouraged not to.
A cognitively dissonant statement was released after the wreck, as follows:
“Our data shows that when used properly by an attentive driver, who is prepared to take control at all times . . .” the system is the apogee of safety.
An “attentive driver”?
Isn’t the whole point of Autopilot in particular and automated driving tech in general to enable the driver to not be attentive? What would be the point of a self-driving car that requires the driver to be “prepared to take control at all times”? Isn’t that what a driver is supposed to do?
On the one hand, Tesla pitches the self-driving capability of its cars. That – and virtue signaling about driving an electric car – are the main reasons people buy Teslas. Otherwise, why not just buy a Camry?
On the other hand, Tesla holds the driver responsible for not driving the car when it drives itself into something.
It is like selling a leaky boat and blaming the guy who bought it when it sinks.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t entirely off base.
There used to be something called due diligence. This is the idea that a person has an obligation – to himself – to check out something before he buys in. It could be a used car or a prospective marriage partner. You don’t just go on say-so.
The Dearly Decapitated apparently didn’t do theirs.
If they had, they would have read the literal fine print, where Tesla repeats the same get-out-of-jail statement quoted above to the effect that what is marketed as full “self-driving” tech really isn’t since you are fully responsible for what the car does.
Which is an evasive way of saying that you must drive the car, even when the car is supposedly driving itself. Pedantic legal weasling about being “prepared” to “take control at all times” is just exactly that – pedantic legal weasling. There is no realistic way to be “prepared” to “take control at all times” without keeping one’s eyes on the road, one’s hands on the wheel and one’s feets ready to apply the brakes, etc.
In other words, one must be driving the car.
It is not possible to be be “prepared at all times” if you aren’t doing all of those things – because of the time it takes to notice and react to things. Like for instance a semi stopped on the highway that’s not moving out of the way. At highway speeds, a reaction delay of just 1 or 2 seconds is the difference between running under semi and driving around the semi.
Elon knows this, of course. Everyone knows it.
But Elon markets something different. He knows what people think they are buying – the Car That Drives Itself! He talks it up incessantly. While at the same time, knowing perfectly well that the technology is unsafe at any speed . . . unless the driver actually drives the car, or might as well be – which is exactly what the marketing encourages him not to do even as it tells him he ought to.
It’s remarkable that Tesla hasn’t been sued over this by some “concerned” group of public citizens or even state attorneys general. These are, after all, the same bunch that sic themselves on purveyors of vaping machines, which are marketed as the safe alternative to smoking but which give aficionados “popcorn lung” instead of lung cancer.
Let’s not even get into guns.
And what would these concerned public citizens do to any other car company that sold, let us say, a seatbelt buzzer off switch that they marketed as something that should only be used when creeping down the driveway of your home to get to the mailbox but never on public roads?
The reason why they refrain from siccing themselves on Elon, of course, is that Elon is one of them. It is the same reason for the hands-off treatment of not-social-distancing rioters vs. the Hut! Hut! Hutting! of businesses and moms walking their kids in the park.
Self-driving (but not really) is like Corona in that both are means toward the same end. Self-driving (sic) is about habituating people to not drive; to not even want to drive. So as to get them ready for a world in which people are no longer allowed to. Just as Corona isn’t about sickness, either – but rather (and similarly) the health of the state.
And if a few eggs get broken in the process of making this omelette, so be it.
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