Perfect v. Better
Oct. 8, 2018
In today's Star Tribune was an article discussing the safety differences between Tesla's autopilot feature and human drivers. The article noted: "In the first quarterly report on the safety of its autonomous vehicles, Tesla said it recorded one crash for every 3.34 million miles driven when the autopilot was engaged." When you compare that with data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration you see that when humans are behind the wheel there is one crash for every 492,000 miles driven in the United States.
Tesla's founder, Elon Musk, gets extremely agitated when he sees all of the news coverage when one of tesla's vehicles gets involved in a crash: "It's super messed up that a tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front-page news and the 40,000 people who died in the US in auto accidents alone in the past year gets almost no coverage."
The moral of the story is that we should not let perfect get in the way of better. Even though autonomous vehicles will probably never be able to avoid every single crash, the evidence is going to mount that they are considerably better than human drivers. Autonomous systems will only get improve over time.