Driver Inattention and Autonomous Cars

The latest news about the self-driving car that killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona is that cameras captured video of the car heading straight into the woman walking her bike across the road. The car did not slow down or swerve to avoid her. The car also had a driver, a so-called “human safety operator”. The video shows the driver to have been looking down for 5 seconds before impact. The car was travelling at 40 mph. This means the vehicle travelled almost the length of 2 football fields before hitting the pedestrian. An attentive driver has a reaction time of between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds. This means there was plenty of time and distance to stop or take evasive action. Although investigators initially said the incident was “unavoidable”, that is clearly not the case. The technology failed and so did the driver.


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