SCIENCE & TECH

I wouldn't bet the lives of my family on self-driving cars just yet: Here is why

Matt Charnock
Author
Matt Charnock
I wouldn't bet the lives of my family on self-driving cars just yet: Here is why

Whether we like it or not, our autonomous future—where cars effortlessly drive themselves alongside our HOV lanes—is looming on the horizon. But should we trust them?

The past decade or so has seen the almost overnight explosion of wide-spread autonomy. Our factory jobs have been weaned-off human interfaces in favor of digital ones; the trucking industry hangs in the balance as talks and patons boil to the surface around driverless semi-trucks. So—with the bevy of hands-free operating technologies making their way into the lives of everyday citizen—should we be wary of, essentially, unconscious flights of transportation?

Tesla infamously has totted its autopilot technology for the better part of two-years now. To say the tech giant is having a rocky (and dangerous, at times deadly) time with the newfound technology would be a mild sentiment; it’s been a unanimous disaster.

“There were probably three or four moments where we were on autonomous mode at 90 miles an hour, and hands off the wheel, and the road curved,” Alex Roy, a test-driver, told Wired. Where as a trained driver would’ve aimed for the apex—the geometric center of the turn—to maintain speed and control, the car follows the lane markers. “If I hadn’t had my hands there, ready to take over, the car would have gone off the road and killed us.”

A sound endorsement for the legitimacy and safety of autonomous driving, is it not? Naturally, Tesla quickly aimed to, in a very literal sense, curb and PR nightmares by updating the system.

“We have always been transparent about the fact that Enhanced Autopilot software is a product that would roll out incrementally over time, and that features would continue to be introduced as validation is completed, subject to regulatory approval,” Tesla said in a 2015 press release. “The inaccurate and sensationalistic view of our technology put forth by this group is exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety.”

The following year, a man was killed while his Model S was in autopilot—so suffice to say those incremental changes fell short on countless fronts.

Tesla, however, isn’t the sole company pursuing self-driving cars; the company is just the early-most adopter. As recently of yesterday, Wired came out with a comprehensive list of current companies pursuing vehicular AI (Artificial Intelligence) and autonomous technologies, in and outside Silicon Valley. (GM, for example, just acquired Cruise Automation—a Valley Start-up revolutionizing on-road autonomy—from the Google’s prying hands.)

But the question still remains: should we still be concerned about autonomous driving. In short: no!

However, there’s a great African proverb that loosely translates to “be wary of the naked man giving you a shirt.” The same can be said about jumping on the autonomous bandwagon: don’t be lulled into buying a technology that’s not quite yet ready for the market.

We’re looking at you, Tesla.

(Feature image courtesy of iStock)