Human error plays a role in almost all motor vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania, which is why many experts believe that the roads will be much safer when cars drive themselves while human beings stare at their phones, look out of windows or take naps. Carmakers are involved in a high-stakes race to bring the first fully autonomous vehicle to market, and Tesla seems to be ahead. Tesla introduced a feature called Autopilot in 2014 that used ultrasonic sensors, cameras and radar to provide rudimentary self-driving capabilities, and it is currently testing technology that it optimistically calls FSD, which stands for full self-driving.
The promise of AI
Autonomous vehicles controlled by sophisticated artificial intelligence systems are seen as the solution to the nation’s motor vehicle accident problem because they cannot be distracted, will always obey traffic laws, are not prone to outbursts of anger and do not drink or take drugs. When a software engineer analyzed the 12 leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States, he concluded that FSD could eliminate five of them and significantly reduce the others.
The reality of AI
Carmakers like Tesla know that their customers are tech savvy and want the most advanced features, which may be leading them to exaggerate the capabilities of features like Autopilot and FSD. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers Autopilot and FSD to be Level 2 autonomous technology, which means it must be monitored constantly. Tesla has released marketing films that show one of its vehicles using Autopilot to make its way through a busy city, and that may be leading drivers to put too much faith in the system. When NHTSA launched an investigation into autonomous technology following a series of serious crashes, the agency discovered that 70% of the vehicles involved were Teslas equipped with either Autopilot or FSD.
One day, but not today
Self-driving cars may one day make accident injuries and deaths a thing of the past, but that day still seems to be a long way off. Until it arrives, carmakers should take a more restrained approach when producing commercials that laud the capabilities and safety benefits of current autonomous technology.