You’ve got to love the story of the Tesla in semi-autonomous mode driving into the back of a fire truck at 60 miles an hour. Obviously if someone had been hurt it would be a lot less funny, but boy howdy that is some flaw.
Yet, many funny things happen along the way to ultimate success.
When the MacPlus was the ‘go to’ computer to design (we use the word in its loosest sense) the company newsletter, Apple was determined to dig the company out of becoming the single application computer, the Desktop Publishing machine. So they sent their salesmen out into the streets, and in one particular case, the Pentagon. The demonstration of Excel to seriously dressed and seriously minded military majors was based around the interoperability of the Mac with the PC. So they demonstrated how this would work. They hooked up the computers and seamlessly transferred a large, but presumably dummy, military budget from the PC to the Mac.
Except that the numbers on the PC that were positive, became negative, and the numbers that were negative became positive. The military minded majors were less than impressed. The Apple salesman shrugged, and said that happened sometimes, but definitely not all the time.
It will come as no surprise to you that there was no sale that day.
Those, of course, were the beginning of the ‘dark days’ for Apple, a company that at one point nearly went bust. Now, things are a little different, and Apple is worth slightly more than a few cents a share.
Tesla, and other car manufacturers, will, one day, look back on the days of endless testing and smile. “Do you remember,” they will say, “when the Model S went straight into the back of the truck in Culver City?” and they will nod and mumble about the old days.
But it is, surely, a serious problem.
The Tesla (and Volvo equivalent) will not necessarily stop if something is stationary, particularly if the car is traveling at more than 50 miles an hour. If it did, goes the logic, it wouldn’t work at all. So if for instance, a car changes lane to prevent piling into the back of say, a Culver City fire truck, the Tesla will not stop. It might even speed up.
The mind immediately begins to think of the situations where a Tesla will drive into things at 60 miles an hour. A pile up on a freeway, perhaps, or an elephant minding its own business in the middle of a road.
Forgive me being a bit wet about this, but the appeal of the autonomous car just went from 60 to zero in 3.2 seconds.