Big brother is starting to watch and pay attention. Advocates for automation have maintained that the recent tragedies involving autonomous cars shouldn't detract from the likelihood that driverless technology is eliminating human error and making driving safer. But the death involving a robot-driven Volvo operated by Uber, and a fatality five days later that involved Tesla's Autopilot driver-assist system, were unusual in another way: They were rare instances in which driverless-car companies were forced to share data about how their systems work, in this case with investigators.
A schism is developing in the driverless-car world — but not between fans and foes of robot cars. Instead, on one side are driverless-car advocates who believe data transparency will lead to safer deployment of driverless vehicles and help alleviate public fears about the strange and disruptive new technology. On the other are some automobile and technology companies that, for good commercial reasons perhaps, prefer to keep their workings cloaked in mystery. So, it begs the question, how transparent is too transparent?