Following the recent fatal Tesla Model S crash, Germany is working on plans to set laws requiring cars with “Autopilot” to have a “black box” much like that of commercial airplanes. This is the country’s solution to being able to determine fault in an accident. The black box will record when the self-driving system is on or off and when the driver was engaged.
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt proposed the legislation, along with rules about drivers’ responsibilities or expectations when using the advancing technology. He believes that drivers will not need to be responsible for paying attention to traffic or steering, but must be seated behind the wheel in order to take over if needed.
Germany’s Daimler has been reported as a top contender in the upcoming wave of autonomous technology. Although the company isn’t in the spotlight now, reports say that its technology and the model for its execution may go unmatched. BMW and VW are also among the top automakers in the world and are housed in Germany. Both are well on the way to unveiling self-driving cars.
It is assumed that the technology that Dondrindt is referring to is, more specifically, high levels of autonomy that we are expected to see around 2020 and beyond. It doesn’t really make sense that governments would be advising people to stop paying attention and not drive, in cars like the current semi-autonomous Tesla Model S, especially under the circumstances that have fueled this topic.
Many considerations will come of these type of laws, much like that of Apple’s recent battle with the FBI. The black boxes will contain large amounts of encrypted data, as hacking concerns are very real today. When an incident occurs, the data will need to be released to courts to make determinations.
While a simple accident involving one driver and no others may not cause any major obstacles or privacy issues, a multi-car pile up with several injuries or fatalities, could become a black box nightmare. Just think the immense amounts of data to decipher, added to lack of information from those cars that don’t have black boxes, coupled with some being driven and others driving themselves . . . the list could go on and on. Its complexity is difficult to fathom.
What company would want to provide all information to the courts in order to prove that its car was at fault for the entire situation? Will the government have open access to all black boxes at all times? Regardless of the black box data, what amount of fault still comes back to the operator, or the others on the road? Do those with or without black boxes get ruled upon differently?
As Apple has just undergone its iPhone encryption mess with the FBI and had to stand up for itself, its customers, and its promises of privacy and security, it has some experience in such situations. The company is also top on the list when it comes to managing data and keeping information safe. It’s hard to forecast how this will all play out and whether it will be a hindrance or a saving grace to automakers and their customers.