Yet another glimpse into the future
Autonomous vehicles will soon change how lawyers deal with their clients and cases, yet I’ve had trouble imagining a day when smart cars start getting subpoenaed.
The Washington Post published a story recently titled “Tesla just showed us the future of car crashes,” about the owner of a Tesla Model X, who claims the car’s autopilot system necessitated a crash by independently accelerating while his wife was behind the wheel. The car jumped over a curb and crashed into the side of a shopping center.
There’s just one problem with that scenario, according to Tesla. Data collected from a diagnostic log, which relies on multiple sensors that keep track of the car’s behavior, indicated that the gas pedal was suddenly pressed to the floor before the crash. Tesla also revealed that the car was never switched to autopilot or cruise control, which would place liability squarely on the shoulders of the driver.
The Post goes on to mention that the owner of the Model X is sticking by his story, even though the data is practically conclusive. We may have the beginnings of an ongoing case study, but the bigger takeaway is whether drivers (and manufacturers, insurers, etc.) are prepared to deal with such a fast-approaching reality. How do you disprove a computer?
Writer Brian Fung had some insightful thoughts on what the Tesla situation means for the future of driving, one of which includes keeping people honest by virtue of the nature of smart cars and how they operate:
“Cars have reached a level of sophistication in which they can tattle on their own owners, simply by handing over the secrets embedded in the data they already collect about your driving.”
That’s a relatively impressive realization when you consider the amount of auto-related litigation that occurs in the United States alone. Outside of our ability to install dashboard cameras, collecting information from a vehicle’s computer system represents a turning point in the way automakers, insurance companies, and lawyers will soon go about their business, including the protection of consumers. Fung goes on:
“But the potential dark side is that the data can be abused. Maybe a rogue insurance company might look at it and try to raise your premiums. Perhaps it gives automakers an incentive to claim that you, the owner, were at fault for a crash even if you think you weren’t.”
As I’ve said before, we’re on the edge of a new frontier and we have to have a clear view of what’s coming.