By Sean Reyes, Chief Marketing Officer, Recall Masters

Many vehicle manufacturers and vendors are developing autonomous technology and incorporating it into the latest vehicles. The key factor here is that this technology has to be tested. And not only tested but tested in real-world driving conditions, including the many variables it could encounter. Other passenger vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and any number of obstacles a driver could encounter.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers need permission from each state to do these tests in real-world environments, and they need to clock miles in the millions to show that the vehicles are safe. They do have operators present in the car in case something goes awry. Think of it like the old driver’s education cars with a steering wheel, gas, and brake pedal on the passenger side in case the instructor had to take control.

In Vehicle Technology – Where It Can Get a Little Dicey

In some cases, things can get a little dicey. Maybe attention lapsed for a moment. Perhaps it’s the bumps on the sides of the roads designed to get your attention should you drift, or perhaps the vehicle has a lane-deviation warning feature. No human (or apparently, car) can respond in less than .2 seconds.

An article in Wired magazine proves this point. To summarize, “The Uber driving system—which had been in full control of the car for 19 minutes at that point—registered a vehicle ahead that was 5.6 seconds away, but it delivered no alert to her. The computer then nixed its initial assessment; it didn’t know what the object was. Then it switched the classification back to a vehicle and waffled between vehicle and ‘other.’ At 2.6 seconds from the object, the system identified it as a ‘bicycle.’ At 1.5 seconds, it switched back to considering it’ other.’ Then back to ‘bicycle’ again.

The system generated a plan to try to steer around whatever it was but decided it couldn’t. Then, at 0.2 seconds to impact, the car let out a sound to alert Vasquez that the vehicle was going to slow down. At two-hundredths of a second before impact, traveling at 39 mph, Vasquez grabbed the steering wheel, which wrested the car out of autonomy and into manual mode. It was too late. The smashed bike scraped a 25-foot wake on the pavement. A person lay crumpled in the road.”

Do you know how long the time difference is between 2/10th of a second and 2/100ths? It took you longer to read this sentence. The car hit the bicyclist, and they died.

Who Is at Fault?

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Who is at fault? The autonomous vehicle? Or the operator? The operator had been trained to pretty much “let the car do its own thing,” with the car already programmed to recognize and act. This type of incident is what automakers have been telling people that autonomous vehicles will prevent. Yet, in this case (and in many others), it didn’t. While it was this person’s profession to monitor and let the vehicle do its thing, many consumers are buying cars with this technology based on the ooh-aah factor.

Ultimately, it Is tough to sue a car. Someone got killed by an autonomous vehicle. It had an operator charged with monitoring what it did. Do you blame the car for its 2/10th of a second notification — or the driver? These questions will continue to come up, and I guarantee that one of these days, a court will decide. And that could change the history – or at least extend its adoption – of new technology well into our future, despite how enticing it seems to be.

About the Author

Sean Reyes oversees all marketing efforts at Recall Masters as Chief Marketing Officer. Sean’s experience spans more than 25 years of business development and strategic marketing experience, having worked in the automotive, healthcare, finance, and technology industries to serve customers like American Express, Toshiba, Western Digital, Cox Communications, Gateway, Novartis, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq, HP, Confident Financial Solutions, MyCustomerData, Toyota of Orange, and Fletcher Jones Mercedes Benz. While he has an accomplished portfolio of design, production, and coding skills, his strength is in “go-to-market” business modeling and digital marketing strategies.

Author: Alissa Frey

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