Death by Driverless Car

A number of news outlets are already reporting the first pedestrian death that occurred when an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona.  According to the news reports, the vehicle was operated by Uber with a human driver for safety.  The woman was crossing a street, at a point other than a crosswalk, with her bicycle.  It should be pointed out that, jaywalking is not recommended nor is it legal in most municipalities.   The vehicle, a Volvo XC90, failed to detect her presence, struck and killed her.  First and foremost, this is a prime example of the fact that we as a society are a long way from having autonomous vehicles take us where we want to go.  Second, there was a human being in the vehicle when the accident occurred, supposedly for safety purposes.  So, why didn’t he take the wheel and try to avoid hitting the woman?  Did the event present itself so suddenly that there wasn’t time for him to react?  Or was he so surprised by the woman’s appearance that he was stunned and couldn’t move?  It is possible that the woman walked into traffic in front of the Volvo with no thought about what she doing.  In that case, she was most likely at fault.  However, we are constantly being told that autonomous vehicles will be much safer and that the accident rate will go down when these vehicles are in common use.  But, what about when the car’s computer has to make an ethical decision?  What does the vehicle do when it has to decide whether to kill a pedestrian or crash into another vehicle and risk killing some or all of its occupants?  Speaking from a forensic standpoint, remember, the movements of the vehicle will be preprogrammed at the manufacturer’s factory based on various scenarios that drivers face everyday.  Are you ready to forfeit your life on the basis of what some programmer thinks is the right thing to do?

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Hyundai Sonata Recall

I just finished posting a recall to our website which talks about how Hyundai is recalling 883,000 Sonata vehicles for a defective automatic transmission shift cable. I know that there have been larger numbers of vehicles recalled by other manufacturers but, this isn’t about the numbers. It’s about whether manufacturers have learned anything. You would think that as long as cars and trucks have been built, especially here in the US, that manufacturers would have a handle on keeping problems to a minimum. But, how does a faulty ignition switch get by a company like General Motors? Ford and Chrysler have had their problems as well. One only has to do a little research to find something that had a significant impact on the company’s bottom line. Remember Ford’s electronic ignition that caused fires in F 150s back in the lat 90s? Remember the Jeep sudden acceleration/inadvertent movement that wouldn’t go away? The problems aren’t limited to American made vehicles. The Japanese have had their share of recalled vehicles as well. Remember the Toyota floor mat fiasco? If all of the people that worked for all of the world’s car manufacturers were put under one roof, there has to be an untold number of millennia of experience and yet, recalls are a part of everyone’s life.

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