The following video is disturbing. On a Taiwanese highway, a box truck flipped over on its side, blocking several travel lanes. A few moments later, a white Tesla Model 3 is seen driving toward the truck. While other cars swerve out of the way, the Tesla plows straight into it, never slowing until just before the collision. If you are Elon Musk and are coming off a very successful SpaceX launch over the weekend that carried two American astronauts to the International Space Station, the image below — a screenshot from a YouTube video provided by Taiwan news source LTN — is the last thing you want to see in the morning headlines.
No one knows exactly what happened. The car’s “black box” has not been analyzed. All we know is what is in this report by Taiwan English News:
“According to preliminary investigations by the Highway Police Bureau, the 53-year-old Tesla driver, Mr Huang, said that his car was on autopilot, and traveling at around 110 kilometers per hour at the time of the crash. As soon as he saw the truck, he stepped on the brake, Mr Huang said. However, it was too late to stop the vehicle, and it crashed through the roof of the overturned truck.”
Let the fun and games, the finger pointing, and the flame wars between Tesla haters and Tesla fanatics begin. Was Mr. Huang alert and attentive to the road ahead before the crash? Was he perhaps reading the Tesla owner’s manual warnings about how to use Autopilot safely? Was he playing video games? We don’t know. No doubt Tesla will carefully analyze all the data from the car and issue a report saying all systems operated properly, the driver was at fault, and Autopilot was entirely blameless. Whatever the case may be, watch the video and then decide if there is not something very, very wrong with this picture.
The point is not to assign blame. The point is to ask how a Tesla with all its vaunted safety systems can run head on into a very large truck without slowing or taking evasive action. After watching this video, are you more or less inclined to trust a computer to drive your car?
No matter what we write about this incident, we will be slammed for being Tesla fanboys or Tesla haters. It’s inevitable. The point is, if Elon can make a rocket that flies astronauts to the ISS, why can’t he make a car that avoids big solid objects in the middle of the road? Does any system that can’t recognizing an overturned box truck deserve to be called Autopilot?
This debate has been raging for years and will continue to rage long after this mess is cleaned up. The driver was not seriously hurt. No lives were lost. Trucks and cars can be repaired or replaced.
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