Putting a Face to a Tragedy

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There has been much talk in recent years about how computers and robots are going to take over everything. We’re all going to lose our jobs to them. They’re all going to drive trucks and cars. They might even turn on us and take over earth.

I have been mixed up in technology pretty deeply since 1979, and these concerns have never crossed my mind. Technology, even in its most modern form, usually has so many band-aids holding it together, there’s no fear on my part that it’ll suddenly become self-aware and decide to enslave us. Hell, personal computers have been around for over forty YEARS, and they still take several minutes to boot and are prone to freezing. Do you really think the Macintosh would need a “Force Quit” function if technology was totally reliable? It isn’t.

Thus, even as a Tesla owner, I have had zero interest in turning over my life into the hands of a self-driving car. My family members have been pestering me endlessly about upgrading to a self-driving model, but I have always had two problems with this: ONE, I don’t trust technology with my life or the lives of my family members, and TWO, I actually really like to drive. So, no thank you, I’m going to keep driving the old-fashioned way.

There is a section of highway 101 that I’ve passed by hundreds and hundreds of times which has been in the news this week, and a map of this region looks like this:


This is where a man plowed head-on into a barrier in his new Tesla X and died in the fiery aftermath. Details are starting to come out, and I’ve learned a few things: (a) his name was Walter Huang (b) he was a husband and a father in his thirties (c) he worked at Apple. Obviously, he made a pretty good living for himself, because a new Model X is a six-figure vehicle.

The most interesting news to come out is that Mr. Huang had complained multiple times to Tesla that, as he approached this certain section of road, the car would try to lurch him toward a barrier. I suppose only by forcing the steering wheel away from the automated driving was he able to save himself. Again, I’ve passed this barrier hundreds of times, and it looks like this:


This is a strange section of road, because it has two off-ramps leading to the same highway. One of the off-ramps, the one on the left, is for carpools only. It goes up, and I have a theory that, to the Tesla’s “brain”, a person trying to get to this onramp was about to flight into northbound traffic, so in order to “save” the person, it would swerve them sharply to the right (which, as it turns out, is the barrier you see above).

And here’s the result of such driving assistance from a Tesla:

Tesla has recently lost ONE THIRD of its value, destroying about $22 billion in shareholder assets. Between their complete fumbling of Model 3 production (which I could tell well in advance was going to be a disaster) to PR nightmares like this one, it’s easy to see why. Just remember, when you think of the man who died a gruesome, horrible death in the searing flames of a self-destructive hundred-thousand dollar vehicle, he had a face, he had a life, and he had a family: