Ahh, it’s time again to stir the pot on autonomous driving. Not my favorite topic, but someone’s gotta get their hands dirty, right? So, just give me a moment to roll up my sleeves, clear my throat and prepare for the backlash…
Awhile back, a man by the name of Joshua Brown died in his Tesla Model S after its Autopilot system failed to recognize a truck about to hit it. This unfortunate incident spurred insurance companies to wonder who is responsible during the even of an autonomous car crash. Is it the driver’s fault or the automaker’s?
It seems as if insurance companies feel that it’s the automaker’s fault, as they advertise a product function and the function failed. While those of us with brains know that the person behind the wheel should be paying enough attention to override the autonomous function and steer clear of danger, if the product function doesn’t require such things, it’s a fault of the product. BMW seems to feel the same way.
According to Oliver Poguntke, Project Manager for Driver Assistance Systems for the 5 Series, BMW absolutely must take full responsibility for the safety and well-being of any occupants inside an autonomous BMW. Which really is a breath of fresh air.
“I think you must [take responsibility]. If you change the responsibility from the driver to fully automatic with the car then the mass producer must take liability for this… I think this is a necessary step,”. said Poguntke. “To change the responsibility, we must also have the laws. There is a lot of discussions in the world, and some countries are different to others. We need to have consistency with this.”
BMW does have a bit of a reputation for being careful with autonomy. Awhile back, BMW CEO Harald Kruger spoke about how BMW would not release a fully autonomous car to the public until it was completely safe. He even made remarks about Tesla’s beta testing of its Autopilot system with the public, claiming that even software betas are only given out to small portions of the public. But BMW claims that it will not release a fully autonomous car until 2021, despite competitors claiming much earlier debuts than that. But BMW wants to make sure that it’s 100 percent safe and capable.
Plus, BWM feels that the current public infrastructure needs to change a bit to work with autonomous cars. “We have to think about the best solution and it [still] needs some time. You have to ask what will happen on a crossroad or a roundabout, so we have to understand this all. It is also a question of structure and regulation.” said Johann Klister, Product Manager for the new 5 Series.
It is refreshing to hear a massive automaker claim that it wants to be fully responsible for its occupants when autonomy comes along and that occupant safety is the main priority.