I have always been branded as an early adopter of technology. I took comsci is a university in the early 70s, had a personal computer in 1980, travelled to Tokyo in the 90s to attend the Japanese consumer electronics show and drool outside of computer stores, so when they announced self-driving cars, I was in 7th heaven, so you can only imagine my dismay after a big time music star got a ticket from the California Highway Patrol for filming himself on his phone with his feet hanging out of the driver’s side window of the Tesla Model S that he was supposed to be driving. The officer cited him for operating a cell phone while driving and for driving at an unsafe speed for traffic conditions. Apparently, the car was just creeping along in traffic.
Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, anyway DJ Klypso went to traffic court to fight the ticket and won, not because he was right, but because the officer did not appear. Reports say that he would have been able to get it dismissed based on the assertion that “the Tesla Autopilot drives 100% on its own, and accurately monitors speed while on the freeway.” This, of course, is untrue and is definitely dangerous.
This incident brings up a couple of serious issues. First, while “Autopilot” is a catchy name, it’s clearly problematic, as some people are taking the name literally, and think that their Tesla is capable of being fully self-driving. This has already resulted in some high-profile accidents, and Telsa has arguably not done enough to clarify the system’s capabilities and limitations. Maybe it’s time to think of a more suitable name, Tesla?
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, both police and the court’s should be better informed about this kind of technology so that they are more effective in regulating this kind of behavior. Products like Autopilot are becoming more prevalent and will present a whole new class of sticky legal situations.
Reporting for Computer Insider, I’m Bob Pritchard