Tour bus crash vs. successful beer delivery by self-driving truck: A juxtaposition for our time

On one hand, there's the news of one of the worst crashes in recent memory in late October, involving a tour bus, where more than a dozen people lost their lives and many others were seriously injured. On the other, there's the news of Uber's self-driving truck, which made the two-hour trip to deliver 50,000 cases of beer without incident.

In the bus, there was a human behind the wheel. In the self-driving truck, a computer. The bus crashed and the truck didn't.

The juxtaposition of these two stories - in light of all the news about autonomous vehicles in general - provides for a striking contrast. Frankly, it makes one hope more for that promised future where people need not worry as much about loss of life (or serious injury) on the roadways, relegated to history.

The tour bus crash

In the early morning of Oct. 23, just last Sunday, a tour bus on its way back from a casino in California rear-ended an 18-wheeler at high speed. The front part of the bus was destroyed. The bus driver lost his life, along with a dozen other passengers. Several others were seriously injured.

In the days following this crash, news reports brought to light a "checkered safety record," according to the Los Angeles Times. The driver has apparently been sued for past accidents, one of which involved wrongful death, and his company (USA Holiday) received less-than-stellar ratings from the Highway Patrol.

The beer delivery

So we have the worst tour bus accident in 30 years in California, juxtaposed with Uber's self driving truck and its delivery of 50,000 beers. As Alex Davies writes for Wired, history was made with the first autonomous truck delivery. It happened in an 18-wheeler - probably much like the one that was rear-ended by the tour bus - outfitted with thousands of dollars worth of IT equipment and 50,000 cans of Budweiser in the hold.

"The drive was as mundane as the beer in the trailer," Davies writes.

If only we could say that about all our drives.

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