Zuckerberg: Elon Musk is right about self-driving cars

Technology Editor
Yahoo Finance

Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk might not see eye-to-eye on everything involving the use of artificial intelligence, but Zuckerberg says they can agree on one thing about self-driving cars: they’ll absolutely save lives and need to become a reality.

Mark Zuckerberg appears at Viva Technology Paris.
Mark Zuckerberg appears at Viva Technology Paris.

During the Viva Technology in Paris, Maurice Levy, the chairman of the advertising firm Publicis, asked Zuckerberg whether he was “on friendly terms” with Musk, who has said AI could threaten humanity.

‘He’s making a point that I really agree with’

In response, Zuckerberg explained how he is optimistic about AI and what it could mean for everything from curing diseases to keeping communities safe. Zuckerberg also pointed out that he and Musk agree that AI could save thousands of lives each year when used in self-driving cars.

I think that he’s making a point that I really agree with on, which is that look: Over the long term if we can get to a state where we have good self-driving cars — you know one of the leading causes of people dying is car accidents — if we can get to a state where we have good self-driving cars, then that is going to potentially massively reduce one of the leading causes of death, and is a very important humanitarian thing that needs to be done,” Zuckerberg said.

Musk recently criticized the media’s coverage of accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous feature. The CEO especially took issue with The Washington Post’s decision to run a front-page article about a Tesla crash that resulted in the driver suffering a broken ankle.

“It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage,” Musk tweeted.

‘It will never be perfect’

Whether fair or not, Tesla has been in the headlines several times for accidents that happened when its vehicle’s Autopilot was active. In April, Musk addressed a crash involving a Tesla that resulted in the driver’s death. Autopilot was active at the time, but Musk said the driver’s hands hadn’t touched the steering wheel for 6 seconds. The system isn’t designed for fully autonomous functionality and requires a driver’s attention.

“It’s important to emphasize it will never be perfect,” Musk said during an interview with CBS. “Nothing in the real world is perfect. But I do think that long-term it can reduce accidents by a factor of ten. So there are ten fewer fatalities and tragedies and serious injuries, and that’s a really huge difference.”

Zuckerberg echoed those sentiments, saying that self-driving vehicles and AI in general will take time to perfect — but that to get there, it needs to be given the chance to develop.

“The point that I’ve heard [Musk] make recently, which I really agree with, and I’ve been trying to make for a while is we need to make sure we don’t get too negative on this stuff. Because it’s too easy for people to point to an individual failure of technology, and try to use that to slow down progress,” Zuckerberg said.

The Facebook CEO’s appearance at Viva Technology came two days after EU lawmakers grilled him on a range of hot-button topics including election interference, data privacy, and fake news.

“I am anxious of this brave new world that Mr. Zuckerberg has presented us!” said Guy Verhofstadt, a member of European Parliament of Belgium. 

Zuckerberg has also had to answer to U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as the social network faces increased scrutiny following revelations that data of as many as 87 million users was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm tied to President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Read more:

Apple CEO Tim Cook brings up data privacy in Duke graduation speech

Warren Buffett: ‘Cyber is uncharted territory and it’s going to get worse, not better’

Why AI is the next frontier for medicine

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn

What to read next