Autonomous cars could save lives, says NTSB chairman Hart
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save many lives, but people are underestimating the challenges, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said in a recent speech at the National Press Club.
Itês going to take longer than people are estimating, Hart said. And the software wonêt be failsafe, especially in the transition period when most cars on the road are still driven by humans.
What if the automation fails? Hart said. Will it fail in a way that is safe? If it cannot be guaranteed to fail in a way that is safe, will the operator then be able to take over to avoid a crash?
He said that on-board event recorders similar to airlinesê black boxes will be helpful.
The day of Hartês speech, NHTSA announced that it was investigating the death of a Tesla owner who was driving his car in Autopilot mode. The accident occurred May 7 in Williston, FL, when a tractor trailer turned left in front of a 2015 Tesla Model S.
Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied, Tesla said in a statement. The company said it was the first known fatality in 130 million miles of driving in Autopilot.
But the incident underscores Hartês note of caution. Michelle Krebbs, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said cars with autopilot should be recalled, according to the Washington Post.
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