Ross: Robodrivers are being held accountable more then people

21 August 2023

Summer weather just seems to bring out the nut cases. Over the weekend, I saw it again, two drivers drag racing in the Mt. Baker tunnel and a lane-splitting motorcycle on the Interstate 90 bridge that was easily doing 100 mph.

Terrifying.

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I’ve been a skeptic of self-driving cars because I can just imagine the Internet going down just as you’re approaching a Diverging Diamond intersection, faded lane markings baffling the guidance system, or Russian hackers taking control of 10,000 self-driving trucks and blockading the Pentagon.

But as I watch the summer driving habits around here, I’m beginning to think we’ll have no choice.

For example: In San Francisco, a self-driving car collided with a fire truck recently, injuring the passenger. That’s bad.

So the California Department of Motor Vehicles will ask Cruise, the company that operates the self-driving cars, to take half of them off the road.

Talk about accountability.

That’s basically the government recalling cars for failing to prevent an accident! That gives the company a pretty strong incentive to get it right.

We don’t do that with human-driven cars, and yet why shouldn’t we expect every carmaker to program cars to prevent accidents? Even if they’re not completely self-driving?

We humans have had our chance to learn how to drive, and the statistics show we’ve failed. So imagine that to be street legal, a vehicle had to be incapable of drag racing, tailgating, weaving, double-line crossing, and pedestrian-hitting. The technology is there. It shouldn’t be optional, any more than seat belts are optional.

Yes, I realize this is how the robots take over, so I would allow a one-year grace period. One year to cut the accident rate in half, and if we can’t do that on our own then domo arigato mister roboto.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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