Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, died in the accident May 7 in Williston, Florida. According to a Tesla statement issued Thursday, the cameras on Brown's Tesla Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn't automatically activate its brakes. Brown didn't take control and activate the brakes either, Tesla said.
Obviously, this was going to happen. I haven't been part of the debate or discussion. I've just been waiting to see what happens. But we knew this was inevitable. While it doesn't necessarily disqualify automated cars, it does dull some of the glitter, and hopefully will lead to something positive.
I personally think Tesla may have been pushing the technology past its capabilities. Yes, there were written warnings that the driver still had to pay attention (which is basically saying the driver still has to drive).
I wouldn't have an automated car myself for personal safety reasons. The fact is, I know that I can be distracted easy enough, and a driverless car that get's it right most of the time would be enough to cause me to pay less attention than I already do.
In the above incident, it sounds like the camera encountered sun glare. I assume a driver would have seen the truck while the car's camera could not, but maybe not. On a couple of occasions, I've encountered the sun in my eyes with such intensity, that I was completely blind, and afraid to apply the brakes, because I couldn't even see behind me, and knowing the glare would be temporary, I drove blind for a couple seconds, well maybe a bit longer.
On one of those occasions I found myself driving straight into an evening sun in unusually heavy traffic. While my blindness was intermittent, it came and went for an extended time. Had I been able to see better I would have pulled over and stopped, but the flow of the traffic was so fast that glimpses of pull offs were too brief to react to. After a minute or so, the traffic had slowed down and we came to an accident. A friend of mine had been bike riding with his wife and three kids, and had gotten caught in the same blinding incident, and his youngest child had been hit and killed by another blinded driver. They were doing CPR as I passed. I watched a medic beating on this little kid, and thought, it looks like that kid might be dead, and what I'm seeing is the last of a "save a life panic" by a medic.
Well that issue aside, sometimes live drivers may encounter untenable conditions beyond their control with or without automation, so the jury is still out for myself, although I'm content to do my own driving for now.