Readers React: One group that rejects the rush to self-driving cars: L.A. Times letter writers

Cars on Monday pass the scene in Tempe, Ariz., where a pedestrian was fatally stuck by an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Readers of the Los Angeles Times who regularly submit letters to the editor tend to be a pretty techno-skeptical bunch. Peruse our pages, and you’ll find letters that routinely blame cellphone distraction for any number of traffic incidents, single out social media as a major societal sickness (note recent letters suggesting that the problem in the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook controversy is Facebook itself), or sing the praises of print media as superior to their digital counterparts.

After a woman was killed Sunday after being struck by a self-driving car while crossing a busy street in Tempe, Ariz., there have been similar but more earnest warnings from our letter writers on the perils of embracing new technologies too quickly. Commentators elsewhere have said it’s too early to write off self-driving vehicles as too dangerous for public roads; in contrast, all of the letters sent to us on the traffic death in Arizona take the opposite position.

Hacienda Heights resident Eddie Dawes, a retired electrical engineer who worked in software development and testing for the aerospace industry, wants driverless cars off the road, for now:

We have put the cart way, way before the horse with respect to self-driving cars. Human lives are being recklessly endangered.


Self-driving cars contain life-critical software that, if it fails, can cost human lives. Life-critical software requires by far the most rigorous software development methodology to ensure a safe, highly reliable product. Have any of these corporations ever developed such software before?

Until we have assurance that experienced developers of life-critical software are on this, all self-driving car trials should be put on immediate hold. Human beings should not be treated as guinea pigs in a rush for corporate profits.

Neil Snow of Manhattan Beach says humans are not appropriate test subjects:

Someone’s life was taken, and many people are talking about this accident as merely a setback for driverless technology, as if to trivialize the death.


The rush from companies such as Tesla and Uber to get their self-driving cars on the road gives the appearance that this technology has not been tested long enough, even though there have been several notable crashes with these cars.

What it comes down to is that these companies are using humans as guinea pigs to test their vehicles. That’s a problem.

Dennis Fitzgerald of Melbourne, Australia, envisions a sci-fi dystopia:

Maybe it’s time to stop the world and get off before we crash — automatically.


We already have remote killing machines with aerial drones. What’s next? “Terminator”-like killing machines?

The sad news of someone being killed by an automated Uber car should be seen as a warning that we don’t have to follow up with every possible idea on technology. And really, why do we need a car that drives itself?

We should slow down and drive our own future in the direction we want.

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