Photo of Thomas B. Alleman

A veteran courtroom lawyer and "well regarded litigator" (Chambers USA 2017), Tom Alleman is at home in trial and appellate courts throughout the United States. His practice focuses on litigation, commercial insurance coverage questions ranging from cyberliability and data breach questions to environmental and D&O issues, regulatory proceedings and advice involving complex environmental and toxic tort issues, and legal challenges facing financial institutions. His extensive experience enables him to step in on short notice when necessary to assist clients in resolving problems or trying cases.

Mr. Alleman is the Director of Dykema's Insurance Industry Group.

On November 25, 2019 the National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the March 2018 fatality accident in Tempe, Arizona, involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian. NTSB’s position on the accident is that it came about because of a combination of an “inadequate safety culture” at the developer and “automation complacency,” which it describes as the failure of the human safety driver to “monitor an automation system for its failures.”

It doesn’t take a deep dive into news reports about AVs to see that many developers envision AVs as systems in which vehicle occupants are entirely “automation complacent”—watching movies, playing video games, doing business or otherwise ignoring the outside world. Everybody from BMW to IKEA has presented concepts for AV interiors, involving everything from social media feeds or e-mails on vehicle windows to projections of movies or video games on the windshield. Add in noise-cancellation technology, lighting and temperature control (not to mention alcohol) and the AV is designed to induce “complacency,” exactly what NTSB criticized in this accident as well as the Tesla Autopilot crashes in Florida and Culver City, California: “driver inattention and overreliance on vehicle automation.” As Hamlet reminds us, “there’s the rub.” 
Continue Reading The NTSB and “Automation Complacency”