Autonomous vehicles were supposed to make driving safer, and they may yet—some of the more optimistic research indicates self-driving cars could save tens of thousands of lives a year in the U.S. alone. But so far, a recklessness has defined the culture of the largest companies pursuing the technology—Uber, Google, and arguably even Tesla—and has led directly to unnecessary crashes, injury, even death.
Let’s be clear about this, because it seems to me that these companies have gotten a bit of a pass for undertaking a difficult, potentially ‘revolutionary’ technology, and because blame can appear nebulous in car crashes, or in these cases can be directed toward the humans who were supposed to be watching the road. These companies’ actions (or sometimes, lack of action) have led to loss of life and limb. In the process, they have darkened the outlook for the field in general, sapping public trust in self-driving cars and delaying the rollout of what many hope will be a life-saving technology.