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Two Self-Driving Car Accidents Raise Concerns About Autopilot Technology

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A couple of self-driving cars have gotten in self-driving wrecks recently, and the news is shaking up people’s confidence in the autonomous modes of transportation this week. The two vehicles, a Tesla Model S and a General Motors Chevy Bolt, didn’t crash into each other, luckily, but their accidents are similar.

The two accidents happened in California. The Tesla ran into the rear end of a fire truck in Culver City. The Tesla’s owner said the car was in autopilot mode. The Bolt ran into a motorcycle in San Francisco.

The driver of the bolt was injured and plans to sue General Motors. GM, for their part, is denying responsibility. The Bolt makes use of GM’s Cruise Automation technology.

“Car-makers suggest self-drive technologies should make the roads safer,” the BBC writes, “but at present California requires a driver to remain behind the wheel so they can retake control at short notice.”

The humans behind the wheels of the Bolt and the Model S were unable to stop the accidents. It is unclear how many potential accidents have been averted by human drivers. Those are not so easy to report.

The two accidents may influence the California Motor Vehicles Department’s decision to allow humans to completely abandon the driver’s seats.

The National Transportation Board has also expressed an interest in the Tesla crash. The Model S is believed to have been traveling at more than 60mph when it struck the firetruck.

“Amazingly, there were no injuries,” an official said. This is amazing, considering the firetruck was parked at the time.

The Model S is equipped with a computer that records all driving data. This will be gathered and analyzed by Tesla.

“Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,” Tesla said about the crash. It advises drivers to remain alert and keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

and that it has instructed drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel while employing it.

Critics of the autopilot systems say that the technology is too permissive. The autopilot allows drivers to be distracted. It gives a false sense of confidence.

It held the company partly accountable saying the Autopilot system had given the victim “leeway… to divert his attention to something other than driving”.

Since the accident, Tesla has introduced an update that brings its cars to a halt if they detect a driver’s hands are not on the wheel.

The Bolt ran into the motorcycle on December 7th of last year. Oscar Nilsson, a photographer who had worked with GM in the past, was on the motorcycle and was injured when the Bolt changed lanes.

“Safety is our primary focus when it comes to developing and testing our self-driving technology,” a GM spokesman told the BBC.

“In this matter, the SFPD [San Francisco Police Department] collision report stated that the motorcyclist merged into our lane before it was safe to do so.”