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How Safe is Tesla Autopilot?

In car view of Tesla Autopilot feature

Founded in 2003, Tesla, and Elon Musk, its infamous CEO, have challenged the auto industry and created a novel standard for electric motor vehicles. Tesla has since attracted lots of devoted customers and fans worldwide. Yet, the accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot are threatening their reputation. Moreover, they have even forced regulators to crack down on the company.

Tesla says the Autopilot is safe and helps drivers avoid accidents. But, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations and lawsuits from injured victims and families who lost their loved ones in accidents involving Autopilot say otherwise.

What is Autopilot?

Technically, Autopilot isn’t an autonomous or self-driving system. It’s a suite of cameras, sensors, and software developed for assisting drivers and preventing crashes by controlling various driving tasks, including changing lanes. The company claims that letting computers take over makes driving safer since drivers are susceptible to distractions and errors.

When drivers engage Autopilot, they are free to relax but not to completely tune out. Instead, they must always keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Most importantly, drivers must be prepared to take control when Autopilot becomes confused or doesn’t recognize objects or hazardous traffic situations.

But, with not much to do other than keep track of Autopilot, some drivers just can’t stop themselves from getting distracted or complacent when the system is on. But Tesla is intent on blaming drivers for accidents that occur when Autopilot is on.

Why NHTSA is Cracking Down on Tesla

In August 2021, NHTSA started investigating Autopilot after receiving reports of a dozen accidents involving emergency vehicles. These accidents resulted in one death and 17 injuries. The investigation involves approximately 765,000 Tesla vehicles, which is almost 40% of all the vehicles that Tesla has sold.

Apart from the crashes involving emergency vehicles, since 2016, three drivers have lost their lives in crashes when Autopilot was on and failed to detect roadway obstacles. In one case, Autopilot did not recognize a roadside barrier. In two cases, it failed to brake and crashed into tractor-trailers that were crossing a highway. The NHTSA also released a list that shows ten people have lost their lives in eight Autopilot-related crashes since 2016.

Also, a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Autopilot and how it affects driver behavior found that it actually made drivers more inattentive when it was engaged. The study evaluated whether automation changed the way drivers behave with the Autopilot on.

It concluded that the drivers’ visual behavior patterns significantly changed before engaging Autopilot and after disengaging it. The study also found that their off-road glances extend when Autopilot is active.

Talk to Our Top Tampa Car Accident Lawyers Now

If you were injured in a car accident involving Tesla Autopilot or any type of car accident involving someone else’s negligence, get in touch with the Top Tampa car accident lawyers at Hancock Injury Attorneys today. You can learn more about your case and options for compensation by completing our online form or calling 813-915-1110.