Friday, December 29, 2017

Did an autonomous Tesla kill its first cyclist?

This Nov 2017 crash hasn’t gotten enough attention …

Tesla Strikes and Kills UK Cyclist |

… An 80-year-old man was killed Friday when a Tesla Model S, an electric car with some autonomous capabilities, struck him as he rode his bike near the U.K. village of High Shincliffe.

The cyclist—identified as Fred Heppell, a former bank manager from Lanchester, U.K.—was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he later died. Initial news reports did not indicate if the driver faces any charges, although police are reportedly seeking eyewitnesses to the crash.

While not a fully self-driving vehicle, the Model S has an autopilot feature that allows the car to steer itself in certain circumstances. Promotional videos online show test drivers letting go of the steering wheel while the vehicle maintains speed and control on relative straightaways. (It tops out at 90 miles per hour in autopilot mode, according to the company website.) The car can also change lanes and park on its own.

It’s unclear if the driver in Friday’s crash had applied the autonomous technology at the time of the collision. U.K. reporters described the road where the crash occurred as “predominantly a straight road with gentle inclines.” Heppell was, by all accounts, an experienced rider.

“Fred averaged 10,000 miles per year on his bike and with his wife by his side had cycled across America, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and a host of European countries in his retirement years,” Heppell’s family told the British press…

I was unable to find any follow-up. I am skeptical of Tesla’s approach to autonomous vehicles: I think it is reckless. Any Tesla in autonomous or semi-autonomous mode should run a 360 video to ensure accidents are well understood and permits should not be issued without testing response to cyclists.

I think Google’s autonomous vehicles may, in time, be a boon to cyclists and pedestrians. Tesla, no so much.

No comments: