Two recent blog posts have raised questions over the safety of autonomous technology when it comes to vulnerable road users.
The posts, featured in the ‘New Atlas’ and ‘Car and Driver’, focus on the interaction between ‘driverless cars’ and motorcyclists and pedestrians.
The Car and Driver post, published on 7 October, claims Mercedes-Benz’s self-driving car (pictured) will prioritise the safety of people within the vehicle, rather than pedestrians.
Referring to one of the ‘moral conundrums’ faced in the development of the technology, the article quotes Christoph von Hugo, manager of driver assistance systems and active safety at Mercedes-Benz.
Speaking at the Paris Auto Show, Christoph von Hugo said: “If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car.
“If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.”
Car and Driver’s Michael Taylor writes: “Rather than tying itself into moral and ethical knots in a crisis, Mercedes-Benz simply intends to program its self-driving cars to save the people inside the car. Every time.”
The New Atlas post questions whether the testing process for Tesla’s autopilot system took sufficient account of two-wheeled vehicles.
The post, published on 21 October, highlights two incidents which ‘raise questions on Tesla vehicle type approval in Europe’.
The first was a rear-end collision in Norway, in which a Tesla Model S, with Autopilot engaged, seriously injured a female motorcyclist.
The second was a ‘small scandal’ in Germany, caused by the magazine Der Spiegel publishing a previously unseen report from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) on the Tesla Model S Autopilot.
After thousands of kilometres of testing, BASt reportedly concluded that autopilot represents a significant traffic hazard. Judging that is was not designed for complex urban traffic situations, the report declared that the car’s sensors are too short-sighted to cope with the reality of German motorways.
Last week, Tesla announced that all of its new cars are to be fitted with the hardware required to drive ‘completely on their own’.