Are Autonomous Vehicles Less Reliable Than Your TV’s Remote Control?

Car accident lawyer and crashworthiness safety expert Todd Tracy discusses safety issues about driverless cars technology with Stephen Syson, the father of automotive airbags.

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This is Todd Tracy with the Tracy Law Firm in Dallas Texas with another Todd Talk.

Todd: Hello, this is Todd Tracy, with the Tracy Law firm in Dallas, Texas, and I’m here to have another Todd Talk. There’s been a lot of news lately about autonomous driving vehicles and I want to talk with you today and I’ve brought a special guest, Mr. Steve Syson, who actually has some special insight on autonomous vehicles and driverless cars technology. Steve, I want to ask you, because it’s been in the news a lot, if you read the newspapers, that we’re getting ready to be inundated with autonomous vehicles, that the driver of the vehicle can put their car on autopilot and throw everything else away. Are we there yet?

Steve Syson: I don’t think we’re there yet and I’m not sure that we want to be there.

Todd: Why is that?

Steve: Because if you think about it, there’s a lot more traffic down here on the ground than there is in the air. Even airplanes that have autopilot have pilots sitting there that can take over the controls when the autopilot screws up. Because the autopilot screws up, the autopilots fail, and the same thing is going to happen with autonomous driving cars. We know that because we all have personal computers, or most of us do, and every time you start up your personal computer, you may have that beach ball of death that tells you it’s not starting up right.

Todd: You have to reboot it and start all over again.

Steve: You have to reboot it and start all over again and if you have a computer failure in autonomous vehicles, then it’s going to crash and it could crash into head on traffic, it can crash into parked cars, and they’ve already had crashes with these self-driving cars. It’s like that picture from Ohio, from the 1900’s, where there are only two cars in Ohio and they happen to meet at an intersection and crash. Well, we’ve only got a few self-driving cars out there on the highway and they’re already crashing.

Todd: I’ve always thought of it this way: we will be ready for driverless cars technology when we develop a TV remote that works 100% of the time. What’s your thought on that?

Steve: Well, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. My TV remotes don’t work most of the time, and you think of how simple it is. When you’re dealing with safety systems, the most important thing with regard to a safety system is the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And when you’re dealing with  autonomous vehicles, you’re getting into incredible complication. It’s got to have the capability of seeing cars in every direction, it’s got to have the capability of seeing pedestrians, it’s got to have the capability of seeing kids darting off of the sidewalk.

Todd: And I want to take you to that example. When an autonomous vehicle is driving down the road—and I want to take you to a comparison—a person driving down the road, a child darts in front of it, what does the person that’s driving the vehicle do?

Steve: They normally try to steer and brake.

Todd: What does an autonomous driving vehicle—what is it programmed to do?

Steve: Well, so far at least, they’re programmed to just slam the brakes on.

Todd: So there’s no evasive action turning to the left or turning to the right, on the vehicles that are on the road today that are autonomous?

Steve: Not so far. Now, maybe they will do that, but obviously the difficulty with pedestrian dart-outs or crossing vehicles is it’s unpredictable where they’re going to go next.


If you, a family member, or friend have suffered a traumatic car accident injury or they were killed in an auto accident, there may be grounds for a product liability lawsuit against the car maker. The victim’s or family members of the deceased person may be entitled to significantly more money in damages than just a negligence case about the cause of the accident.

The Tracy Law Firm focuses on “Who Caused The Traumatic Car Accident Injuries or Death” — not who caused the accident.

Whether you were at fault or not in the cause of the accident, car companies are required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to make vehicles that will protect the driver and passengers from catastrophic injuries or death.

Contact Todd Tracy directly to request a free case evaluation at the Vehicle Safety Firm.

Or call the Tracy Firm for a consultation at 214-324-9000.

The Tracy Law Firm is a nationwide law practice dedicated to making cars safer for the public.


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