People are 'over-trusting' self-driving technology and getting into serious accidents that injure or even kill them, warns researcher who Elon Musk once said was 'extremely biased against Tesla'
- Missy Cummings warned that some drivers were "over-trusting" self-driving technology.
- She analyzed almost 400 crashes involving software like Tesla's Autopilot or GM's Super Cruise.
A researcher who Elon Musk once said was "extremely biased against Tesla" warned that drivers were "over-trusting" self-driving technology and getting into serious accidents that injure or even kill them.
Missy Cummings, an engineering and computer science professor at George Mason University, has called for cars with such technology to be regulated after analyzing almost 400 crashes involving cars using autonomous software.
She told The New York Times that drivers were "letting the cars speed" while using technology such as Tesla's Autopilot and General Motors' Super Cruise. "And they are getting into accidents that are seriously injuring them or killing them," Cummings added.
She criticized the car companies for marketing the technology as "hands-free," and stressed that stricter regulations were needed.
Cummings, who was a senior safety advisor at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2021 and 2023, told The Times she felt she needed to speak out "because the technology is being abused by humans."
Following her appointment to the road-safety regulator, Musk tweeted in October 2021 that "Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla."
Musk's comments sparked online abuse and even death threats, one of which was investigated by police in Durham, North Carolina, where Cummings lived, The Times reported.
She permanently deleted her Twitter account following the online attacks, according to a Bloomberg report at the time. Tesla fans also started a petition calling on President Joe Biden to reconsider her appointment to the NHTSA, the outlet reported.
In a February 6 news article on the George Mason University website, Cummings said she was not "anti-Tesla," but would call out "bad tech that is really dangerous," adding: "The problem is, do not drive your Teslas on Autopilot without paying full and absolute attention and keeping your hands on the wheel."
The NHTSA opened an investigation in August 2021 into a dozen incidents where Teslas that had Autopilot or Cruise Control turned on had collided with stationary emergency vehicles. A report released in June last year by the road-safety agency found that drivers using Tesla's Autopilot software were involved in 273 crashes in 2021.
Cummings was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots. She told Bloomberg in 2021 that automation was commonplace in aviation but was "new learning for the automotive world."
Before joining George Mason, Cummings was a researcher into autonomous systems at Duke University.
Cummings declined to comment further when contacted by Insider. Tesla, General Motors, and NHTSA didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.
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