Is it Ethical to Work on the Tesla Autopilot Software?

Tesla’s value offer

That’s a lot of assumptions

  1. It’s possible for Tesla to create a safe level three self driving car in the next few years
  2. Autopilot will be safer than human drivers
  3. Tesla will be able to prove that autopilot is safer than human drivers
  4. The current hardware will support full self driving capabilities
  5. Regulators all over North America will allow the autopilot to be used on their roads without modifications
  6. Tesla will not be sued over their product quality
  7. Tesla will not be forced into a company-ending recall or go bankrupt for other reasons

1. Is it possible for Tesla to create a safe level three self driving car in the next few years?

a) The Tesla autopilot software needs to be perfect

b) Achieving the requirements for a fully autonomous car is next to impossible

c) Tesla’s cars are more like prototypes than production quality cars

d) You can’t mess around with safety

  • the system runs on five computers simultaneously and only one is needed to fly the aircraft
  • each computer has two processors (known as channels) that perform the same computations and then compare their results
  • different processors are used to reduce the chance that a manufacturing or design fault could introduce an error
  • three computers make up the primary system and two computers are available as fallbacks with reduced functionality
  • the system contains four versions of the flight control software programmed by independent teams using different programming languages
  • all sensor inputs are redundant
  • all actuators are redundant

2. Autopilot will be safer than human drivers

  • Pilots’ flying skills get rusty when they use the autopilot.
  • And they have trouble regaining situational awareness when the autopilot disconnects unexpectedly.

3. Tesla will be able to prove that autopilot is safer than human drivers

  1. Deaths that occur as a result of people losing their driving skills because they have came to rely on the automation.
  2. Any deaths that result from autopilot/hand-off confusion. People are really bad taking control of cars when the automation fails. But it will be worse when you also consider that self driving cars from different companies may handle the same situation differently or that the same car could behave differently after a software update. I predict these issues will lead to many, many deaths.
  3. Deaths caused by self driving cars doing things that people just wouldn’t expect. There are many scenarios where a self driving car could do something no human would expect and cause a third party to crash.

4. The current hardware will support full self driving capabilities

5. Regulators all over North America will allow the autopilot to be used on their roads

6. Tesla will not be sued over their product quality

7. Tesla will not be forced into a company-ending recall or go bankrupt for other reasons

Putting it all together

Staffing problems

Final arguments

The aviation industry would never develop a new technology this way

Is Elon Musk’s approach to self driving cars destined to fail?

The bottom line

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Blaine Osepchuk

Blaine Osepchuk

I’m a small business programmer. I love solving tough problems with Python and PHP. If you like what you’re seeing, you should probably follow me.