A motorcyclist was killed recently when a Tesla on autopilot rear-ended him. The tragic news brings up 2 discussion points:
1) There’s no shortage of bad drivers out there, but…
Hell even the most capable drivers make errors. It’s called ‘being human’. But that’s the thing: A Tesla on auto-pilot is not human. It’s a horse of a different color. One that our minds have not fully adjusted/evolved to yet. With a Tesla, you have an arguably capable human being behind the wheel, but they might NOT be the ones calling the shots. They may have relinquished control. So I think the lesson here, is to use a little extra caution around Teslas in general, or any new emerging vehicles with autonomous tech. Whether you’re on 2 wheels or 4.
Defensive drivers make continuous assessments of the cars & drivers around them, and predict what those vehicles may do at any given moment. In other words, you learn to understand the ‘body-language’ of cars through their driver. You see the warning signs. But in this era, drivers need to learn to watch Teslas differently. Because our human-based predictions do not necessarily apply to robots on wheels. You just cannot trust logic, or even eye contact with the driver of a Tesla. With a Tesla, it wouldn’t hurt to watch light reflections & glare.
For example, if you’re approaching a Tesla on a 2-lane bend & the sunlight is cutting through the trees onto the front of their car – stay alert. If a Tesla is behind you & the sun is low and/or reflecting off building windows, windshields, truck trailers, etc. – pay a little extra attention. Objects/hazards in the road could be another issue. Depending on the unique situation, an autopilot Tesla might not react to those obstacles in a rational or predictable way, at least by human standards.
The reality of this day & age is: All the tech at our fingertips has made drivers exponentially more distracted & dumb, and overall ‘our solution’ is not to make better drivers… but more tech. And that problem goes way beyond just Tesla.
2) Tesla should not be using public roadways as their testbed for autonomous tech.
Nor should anyone else. And the reality is – that’s what’s happening here. All of this technology spawned around the EV grenade in the room has now turned into a frantic & frenzied race to market. Perhaps at the expense of safety, clarity, & good judgement. Governments are putting immense pressure on car companies. So is competition. Legacy car makers are desperately trying to find ways to adapt & ‘beat Tesla’. A lot of things have been rushed & forced to market. And in a lot of cases, it has not been tested thoroughly enough in every type of environment.