Autopilot technology tends to replace human driving and leads the revolution in the foreseeable future. However, many accidents occurred due to the failure of Autopilot and brought the property and life losses. In 2016, Tesla Model-S with Autopilot on hit the trailer which was crossing the highway. The driver and autopilot system did not respond, even an emergency brake. Therefore, who should take the liability for this accident? Engineers or driver?
Engineer’s fault, they should design a more advanced system to adapt to the environment and perform more road test.
Tesla Model-S with Autopilot on crashed into the chassis of the trailer which was crossing the road vertically to the Tesla driving. Brake system was not activated due to Autopilot system did not recognise the white trailer under the sunshine. After the accident, the Tesla company announced that “the ultrasonic radar judged it as an overhead road sign.” “The autopilot was turned off by default, when the driver turned it on, they have to accept the fact that this system is still under beta test.”
The system was released when it was immature and lead to the misunderstanding of the terms. Default setting was more likely forcing users to accept that term. The company and engineer should act. Engineer company aimed to let drivers make the full use of the Autopilot, promote the technology and get benefit from it.
The company and engineers were the stakeholders. The reputation and growth of the company were relevant to the company after the accident. Engineers are relevant to their reputation and confirmation from the company, because of the failure of the system. The engineer and company should be responsible to the customers and make benefit at the same time.
Engineers could act:
- Fully consider the road condition, design a better system.
- Communicate with company to perform more road test to improve its reliability and environment adaptivity.
Company could act:
- Establish the system when it is mature.
- Communicate with engineers to make a full definition of the system to let customers know its function.
The accident was caused by the recognition defect which due to the system design flaw including data-processing and decision-making. However, Engineers could be aware of these problems during the design stage and eliminate them before the system releases. The engineers did make benefits for the company. This reflects that for the company, or to be specific, the engineer who developed the system did the right thing in their perspective in the short term. But, it brought bad consequences for some of the customers, such as loss of properties and life. In the long term, the accident would bring the distrust of public to the system. And the distrust would directly affect the engineer reputation and lead to considerable losses of the engineers. That brought the lose-lose situation for both the engineers and customers. The release of the immature system caused the accident indirectly. The action did not conform to the maximize utility maxim because it did not give the greatest benefits to the most people who affected by it. Therefore, it is the fault of engineers from their perspective because the behaviour itself is unethical.
Driver’s fault, driver relayed excessively on Autopilot rather than use it as a supplementary system.
The driver did not put his hands on the steering wheel when driving on the road. Instead, he was watching a movie. When approaching the trailer, two protection systems in the car were failed to react. As the last protection system, the driver did not break. Hence, the accident happened, and he lost his life.
Driver relied on Autopilot system excessively and loss his concentrate when driving. He did not take full responsibility when driving on the road. The driver and trailer driver must act. The trailer driver could avoid the accident.The driver aimed to make the full use of the Autopilot and get benefit from it.
The driver and trailer driver were the stakeholders. For the Tesla driver, he was watching video when driving. His action linked to his entertainment and safety or life. For the trailer driver, he wanted to cross the road successfully. So, he was in front of the Tesla model-S. In this situation, the driver should comply with the rules and be responsible for himself and society.
There were several options for the driver to save his life:
- Put his hands on the steering wheel and focus on driving.
- Watch the video after the car has been parked in a safe area.
- Watch the video after the driver has arrived the destination.
The trailer driver could act:
- Double check the traffic condition before crossing the road.
- Blow car whistle to inform the driver when the trailer driver realise something goes wrong.
- Reverse quickly to avoid the Tesla Model-S.
The accident happened due to the carelessness of the driver and ignore the change of the traffic condition. For the driver, the problem can be prevented easily if he paid enough attention to the road conditions. The behaviour itself was irresponsible and brought the negative consequences to both the individual and society. Therefore, it was an incorrect and illicit behaviour. From the other point of view, his behaviour was not according to the maxim which can be considered as the universal law for the other drivers. Meanwhile, what the driver did was aim to satisfy himself. Moreover, at the same time, the other people was the means to the end. Moreover, the behaviour of the driver was not the will of the universally legislating. In conclusion, the drivers lived in the world under the universal law. While due to the lack of autonomy, what the driver did was against the universal law in fact. Therefore, the fault of the driver is indisputable.