HOW ‘BLACK BOXES’ IN AUTONOMOUS CARS WILL BE USED TO BLAME HUMANS
In the wake of a Tesla car’s fatal crash while on autopilot, German lawmakers are proposing mandatory “black boxes” for self-driving cars, similar to the devices in airplanes that record the moments before a fatal accident.
The idea is that this type of recorder would help authorities piece together what happened in the moments before a collision, and determine whether a human or a machine was to blame.
The proposed legislation, Reuters reported, would first require that the passenger in a self-driving car be ready to take the wheel in the case of an emergency. Secondly, it would require that the black box record “when the autopilot system was active, when the driver drove and when the system requested that the driver take over.”
Black boxes in cars aren’t new, and “event data recorders” are already installed in most newer vehicles. They measure everything from a car’s speed to whether or not a seatbelt is in use right before a crash. While these devices are pitched as a way to improve car and driver safety, they’ve been increasingly used as evidence in court and by authorities to assign blame in a crash.
“IT MAY ALLOW COMPANIES TO MOUNT A PROPER DEFENSE IN THE EVENT THAT THEIR TECHNOLOGY IS BLAMED”
“The belief is that the most likely culprit is going to be the human, or another human in another vehicle,” said George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association, which aims to protect consumer interests in the auto marketplace. “It may allow companies to mount a proper defense in the event that their technology is blamed.”
Privacy advocates have long been wary of event data recorders in regular cars, and the risk of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands will be the same for autonomous vehicles, Iny said.