Musk predicts human drivers will be less-safe than autopilot next year

Elon Musk gets interviewed a lot and his latest is actually pretty revealing. Musk is interviewed by Lex Fridman a research scientist at MIT, working on human-centred AI.

During the interview (around the 20-minute mark), the conversation turned to the responsibility of humans behind the wheel as autonomous driving progresses in the future.

Musk confidently predicts that humans operating a vehicle will actually be less safe than Autopilot, as soon as next year. Fridman questioned Musk on the paper from his group at MIT which looked at driver’s functional vigilance during use of Tesla’s Autopilot.

In more than 18,000 cases reviewed, drivers, for the most part, are maintaining a level of awareness that enables them to take over in a timely manner. Musk brutally answers that autopilot development (especially with HW3) is happening so fast, that a driver’s effect on safety will be irrelevant and potentially even negative.

It will become, very quickly, maybe even towards the end of this year, but I’d say, I’d be shocked if it’s not next year, at the latest, that having a human intervene, would decrease safety.

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and founder.

If this prediction is true, then it serves as serious firepower for our politicians to enable laws that would allow Tesla’s vehicles to drive themselves on our roads.

Our politicians will face a very serious decision – Are you ready to legislate a piece of technology that has the potential to actually solve the road toll once and for all.. if not, then they better explain themselves.

While this interview focused on Tesla, it’s possible Tesla pioneers the minimum standard required to enable a car to reach level 5 autonomy and if others can reach or exceed that standard, they too would be able to sell cars that drive themselves without requiring human input.

During the interview, Musk makes a number of analogies to the lift operators of the past, detailing that in the future, it’ll seem crazy that we let people drive themselves around in heavy and potentially very dangerous objects.

This raises a serious question in my mind, if you successfully argue (with enormous amounts of data) that vehicle technology is far safer than humans, are you then negligent to allow humans to drive that vehicle? Could we see a Tesla without a steering wheel and pedals in the not too distant future?

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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