According to the author over at ExtremeTech.com, Germany wants Tesla Motors to rename it’s Autopilot feature to something that clarifies that it is not a full autonomous program. This has been an ongoing issue ever since Tesla’s recent fatalities, while possibly using autopilot, here, and here.
Tesla Motors has worked endlessly to debunk many of the minor accidents through each cars black box; however, when fatalities occur, a lengthy investigation into the cause is conducted.
So should Tesla rename Autopilot to something else? Maybe Semi-Autopilot? Definitely not! The automaker could name their system anything they want. It’s really up to the consumer to understand the product he or she is using.
Unless there are patent issues, then no country should have the power to force a company to change any naming of products or features. Additionally, Tesla Motors explicitly states in the end user agreement that the Autopilot feature is in beta testing, and that a driver should be ready to regain control of the vehicle in the event of an emergency.
So in the end, it’s the consumer that needs to understand the capabilities of Autopilot, which could vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You know, it’s like sugar free gum… you’re not getting free sugar!
One of the biggest concerns of autonomous vehicles is the legality of personal injury and damage to property. According to Michigan Telecommunications and Law Review, linked here, who is responsible in the event of an accident? Is it the programming, manufacturer, or consumer? There are no prior laws established to use as a foundation for autonomous vehicles.
This is a whole new terrority in creating laws and policies. In one perspective, it can be reasonable to blame a programmer for an autonomous vehicle that erroneously strikes another vehicle in transport. What if it was a hardware issue? Then maybe we can place the responsibility on the manufacturer for failing to conduct thorough inspections, and testing prior to delivery of a product.
Finally, we could blame the consumer, who is responsible for taking full control, instantly if a vehicle is unable to make a logical and safe decision.
The author of the article has a valid point, which is that the legal issues are far much slower to develop than the technology of autonomous vehicles. Regulators like the National Highway Tranportation and Safety Administration must make this a top priority. In a matter of a few years, we’ll begin to see fully autonomous vehicles on the roadways, and insurance companies need laws to place liability for accident settlements. Our court systems are already significantly delayed…