Joshua D. Brown died in a May crash when his Tesla's cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky, and didn't automatically activate its brakes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the accident. It is also looking into whether a non-fatal Tesla X crash July 1 involved autopilot mode.
Autopilot is a "semi-autonomous technology that helps drivers steer and stay in lanes," according to Reuters, which added that the autopilot function was still in test mode.
Tesla, however, has said that drivers should keep their hands on the wheel, even while the car was partially controlling its own movements.
For Cummings, one of the problems is that people immediately "check out" when a car or an airplane goes on autopilot—even though they are supposed to be paying attention. It's one of the risks the FBI noted in 2014, when it warned autonomous vehicles could easily become "lethal weapons" in the hands of the wrong driver.
"We've known this a long time because of aviation accidents," she said. "People will just do something called mind wandering and just be in their own heads and not paying attention at all."
That said, Cummins is a "huge fan" of driver-less technology. She hopes autos can be completely hands- and eyes-free by the time her 8-year-old daughter is sixteen.