The Teslas Are Crashing!

The Teslas Are Crashing–Perception versus reality, is there a difference?

Have you heard, the “self-driving” Teslas are starting to crash. So far there have been several crashes and two fatalities. This requires a closer look. The government is investigating so we can all breath a sigh of relief. But is the problem really the self-driving car or the driver? It all boils down to perception versus reality. The reality is that the Tesla’s self-driving feature is simply a number of sensors wired together that will keep the vehicle in its lane and vary its speed in accordance with driving conditions. It can bring the car to a quick stop under certain circumstances. What the system cannot do is anticipate driving conditions and act preemptively or defensively. The self-driving system is strictly a reactive not anticipatory one. However, some customers, have believed it to be otherwise and have allowed the car to get into situations that must result in accident, pleading complete lack of responsibility for the outcome, effectively blaming it all on the car.

Until this system can actually think ahead and actually avoid dangerous situations, the promise of the driverless vehicle will remain elusive and more such avoidable accidents will occur.

This reminded me of another situation of perception versus reality. I was out to dinner with some very close friends. We were talking about the economy. As far as my friend Lisa was concerned, the economy was doing great. She’s lives in a nice home, her husband has a wonderful career, lots of disposable income, they want for nothing. I tried explaining to her about the labor force participation rate, the real value of the dollar, the country’s staggering debt load and other real indicators of the true economic state of affairs, to which she replied, “Perception is reality.”

I was taken aback by this statement and really had no reply other than to say, “One day reality will become perception.” But upon further thought, maybe she had a point. To her, the economy was functioning perfectly well. Nothing had really changed since the crash. Their stock portfolio had increased in value, their home had appreciated, their children had graduated from college and were now on their own; their standard of living had actually increased. But had their personal fortune outweighed the country’s continuing misfortune?

Yes and no. The bank or banks where their money is on deposit is much weaker than before. Their stock brokerage is probably now owned by that bank and they could be subject to a bail-in with little or no notice or recourse. The real estate market did recover, but now it’s looking pretty toppy. Many of their friends are having real economic issues. And governments, local, county, state and federal are in much weaker financial positions than they were 10 years ago. So while their personal position may have improved, can it really be divorced from the national economy and society at large?

What really bothered me is whether it’s all worth worrying about or even thinking about, things over which you have absolutely no control. The speed and complete abandon with which the US and the world are heading towards the economic precipice is frightening. Is ignorance truly bliss? Does everything really happen for the better and even if it doesn’t are we better off believing that it does? And that’s without even touching upon the new epidemic of global terror, which our own government helped unleash.

Perhaps for some not knowing or not caring to know is a choice that works for them. For myself I’d rather face unpleasant truths and accept them and then deal with them than remain oblivious to their existence. I cannot accept that burying one’s head in the sand is an acceptable strategy for coping with unpleasant truths. It’s never worked for me in business, my personal life or family life. There’s no reason to believe it’s going to start working now. I’m reminded of a quote by the famous comedian Will Rogers when discussing the economic woes of his day, saying he wasn’t at all worried because, “Ignorance got us into this mess and ignorance will get us out.”

Well corruption and irresponsibility got us into this mess and they’re not going to get us out. So it’s time to start recognizing the real truth, whether it’s about self-driving cars or the moribund global and national economies.

Kerry Lutz