Pied Piper and Autonomous Vehicles

10 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2017 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018

See all articles by R. Edward Freeman

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Nicole Puhl

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Bhaskar Mahajan

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Sean Boes

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Guillermo Bravo

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

Pied Piper's first driverless car had been in an accident and had killed a 26-year-old jogger. Pied Piper felt a deep sadness for the victim's family, and was disappointed and alarmed because the company had optimistically thought driverless cars would eventually lead to total elimination of driving fatalities. The company needed to decide if the car's algorithm was responsible for this death and, if so, what the plan of action should be.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0413

Rev. Sept. 26, 2018

Pied Piper and Autonomous Vehicles

Clara Sloan was in her new semiautonomous car as it drove down California Route 101 when she hit typical morning traffic. The car changed the arrival time to 10 minutes later than she had planned. She hoped to make it to her office in Mountain View, California, by 11:00 a.m. for a meeting with her team. Sloan worked at Pied Piper, a growing tech firm that had earned its stripes in Silicon Valley after creating an impressively fast compression algorithm for eventual use in a wide array of applications, including the most anticipated products of artificial intelligence, drone racing, and autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Promoted to senior product manager of Pied Piper's AV division a year ago, Sloan and her team had chalked up some wins, most notably by accomplishing more than 70,000 miles of AV test drives with no accidents. On two occasions, the Pied Piper car had collided with a utility pole and a fire hydrant, but no humans or other cars were involved. Despite its success, Sloan knew that her team faced fierce competition from Ford, Lexus, and even Tesla (she had bought her Model Z before she joined the group) in bringing AVs to market. A rumor had swept through Silicon Valley that Ford was a year away from launching the next Fusion equipped with an autonomous feature. The race to launch the first mass-market AV program was on, and Sloan's development team was not about to lose that honor to what it called “a pack of programmers” from Detroit, Michigan.

The stakes regarding this morning's meeting could not have been higher. Sloan and her team had just learned the night before that Pied Piper's first driverless car had been in an accident that had killed a 26-year-old jogger. News of the accident and outrage over the death of a well-loved community member were appearing on social media sites. Sloan felt a deep sadness for the victim's family, and was disappointed and alarmed because like so many others she had optimistically thought driverless cars would eventually lead to total elimination of driving fatalities. But the technology and its various complexities were still in a nascent stage; just yesterday, Sloan had read in a Business Insider article that in 2016 AVs were still “sort of in the Wild West of self-driving cars' ethics.” Nonetheless, Sloan and her team needed to decide if their car's algorithm was responsible for this death and, if so, what the plan of action should be.

. . .

Keywords: driverless cars, accident responsibility, competition

Suggested Citation

Freeman, R. Edward and Parmar, Bidhan L. and Mead, Jenny and Puhl, Nicole and Mahajan, Bhaskar and Boes, Sean and Bravo, Guillermo, Pied Piper and Autonomous Vehicles. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0413. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3017469

R. Edward Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-924-0935 (Phone)
804-924-6378 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/freeman.htm

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Nicole Puhl

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Bhaskar Mahajan

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Sean Boes

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Guillermo Bravo

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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