[ExI] Why Tesla Can Program Its Cars to Break Road Safety Laws

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Wed Jan 26 13:15:03 UTC 2022

On Tue, Jan 25, 2022, 11:30 PM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On Tue, Jan 25, 2022 at 10:28 AM Dave S via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> https://usa.streetsblog.org/2022/01/12/why-tesla-can-program-its-cars-to-break-road-safety-laws
>> *Thousands of Teslas are now being equipped with a feature that prompts
>> the car to break common traffic laws — and the revelation is prompting some
>> advocates to question the safety benefits of automated vehicle technology
>> when unsafe human drivers are allowed to program it to do things that
>> endanger other road users.In an October 2021 update its deceptively named
>> “Full Self Driving Mode” beta software, the controversial Texas automaker
>> introduced a new feature that allows drivers to pick one of three custom
>> driving “profiles” — “chill,” “average,” and “assertive” — which moderates
>> how aggressively the vehicle applies many of its automated safety features
>> on U.S. roads.The rollout went largely unnoticed by street safety advocates
>> until a Jan. 9 article in The Verge, when journalist Emma Roth revealed
>> that putting a Tesla in “assertive” mode will effectively direct the car to
>> tailgate other motorists, perform unsafe passing maneuvers, and roll
>> through certain stops (“average” mode isn’t much safer). All those
>> behaviors are illegal in most U.S. states, and experts say there’s no
>> reason why Tesla shouldn’t be required to program its vehicles to follow
>> the local rules of the road, even when drivers travel between jurisdictions
>> with varying safety standards.“Basically, Tesla is programming its cars to
>> break laws,” said Phil Koopman, an expert in autonomous vehicle technology
>> and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “Even if [those
>> laws] vary from state to state and city to city, these cars knows where
>> they are, and the local laws are clearly published. If you want to build an
>> AV that drives in more than one jurisdiction and you want it to follow the
>> rules, there’s no reason you can’t program it up to do that. It sounds like
>> a lot of work, but this is a trillion-dollar industry we’re talking about.”*
> ### Another hatepiece on Tesla. If a human may choose to ignore a law on
> his own, then he must be able to choose to ignore a law when using a robot.
> It's obvious.

Indeed, one could similarly ask "Why are cars sold today with speed
governors whose limits are set beyond any legal speed limit?" These car
manufacturers are allowing drivers to violate the law.

The answer is there are many situations where it is acceptable to break a
law under the "choice of evils" defense:

“[c]onduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid harm or
evil…is justifiable, provided that: (a) the harm or evil sought to be
avoided by such conduct is greater than that sought to be prevented by the
law defining the offense charged” (Model Penal Code § 3.02(1)(a)).

For example, if you're driving someone in need of urgent care to the
hospital, you can violate speed limits (or enable Tesla's agressive mode)
and use the choice of evils defense to be found blameless.

Other examples:

I wouldn't want to be in a car that prevented the vehicle from performing
an illegal U-turn in the event a tornado us spotted on the horizon. Will
self-piloting cars be capable of recognizing such dangers, or weighing
harms and evils, or does that require Turing-test-passing levels of

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