Part of the reason autonomous technology is so exciting is that 95% of crashes are due to human error—we're monkeys driving cars, folks, and we can't stop mucking things up.
The latest instance comes from Atlanta, Georgia. There, a man was allegedly left permanently brain-damaged after an 18-year old woman crashed her Mercedes into his Mitsubishi while trying to goad a Snapchat filter on her phone past 100 mph. (For non-users, Snapchat included a filter that lays an indicated speed over a selfie: 2 mph while walking, 15 mph on a bike, and so on.)
In a suit filed by the plaintiff, Wentworth Maynard, the driver, Christal McGhee, and the app, Snapchat, are named: Maynard's lawyer alleges that Snapchat, in providing digital "trophies" to Snapchatters for using filters, shares responsibility for the wreck. At the time of the crash, McGhee was traveling 107 mph in a 55-mph zone.
Minutes after the accident—during which the Mitsubishi barreled across two lanes and plowed into an embankment—with blood dripping down her forehead and her neck stabilized in brace, the young woman sent a second selfie, with the caption: "Lucky to be alive."
Indeed. Every day, distracted driving kills 8 Americans, and injures almost 1,200 more. While the "speed filter" does seem to have huge potential for misuse, Snapchat has done a decent job of warning against taking selfies while driving, even going so far as to tag that filter with a "Do NOT Snap and Drive" logo. It might be worth considering a lock-out function that keeps snapchat from functioning when, using that handy speedometer, it senses speeds above 15 mph. Yes, passengers of all types would have their Snapchat unfairly paused, but if it kept even one driver from using the app while behind the wheel, it's a worthy measure.
Still, the problem, as ever, is humans, not tech. It's rare to name Subway, for example, when suing a driver distracted by the delicious meats and cheeses in his sandwich. Until the Autonomous Overlords wrench the tiller from our fallible hands, please: pay attention to the damn road.