Self-driving cars kill, but they can improve; humans just kill

A Tesla self-driving car killed its “driver”:

According to Tesla’s account of the crash, the car’s sensor system, against a bright spring sky, failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway.

Pretty awful failure of compute vision.


I have had more than one person tell me that while they agree with me that self-driving cars can be safer, they will never be allowed by the regulators because the politics are not working in their favor. While I understand some of the concerns, I don’t understand how you can believe such a thing and not turn into a full-blown libertarian.

If you believe that government regulations cause the unnecessary death of circa 92 people a day in the US (many more globally) how can you not become a libertarian raging against government intervention?

I actually have a better opinion of both regulators (who can delay life saving products, sure, but will probably not stop such a technology all together) and lobbyists (lobbyist can and do influence regulations).


There is a point to this post though: I’m pretty confident that pretty soon (in a matter of days, perhaps), Tesla will roll out an update that will make sure that white truck trailers against a bright sun are properly detected. So, this particular type of accident will be less likely to ever happen again. Self-driving car accidents expose flaws in the system which can be fixed.

Oh, but there are many other types of accidents, I hear you say. Of course, thousands of them, but if every time one of them happens, that particular type of accident gets fixed, the death rate will keep going down.

Compare with how “we” improve human drivers: educational campaigns and fines for every bad behaviour we uncover (and how many people still text while driving). Sure, it has an effect, but it’s not half as efficient as a patch.

Self-driving cars will have accidents, but unlike human drivers, they can improve rapidly. Until eventually, driving will be as safe as flying.


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