Over the past few months the Tesla Model S has been involved in a number of accidents, some fatal. The first known fatal crash in a Tesla car with autopilot on occurred in Florida in May. Tesla knows that the airbag was not deployed and wrote in a blog post that the system didn’t notice “the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so no brake was applied. This prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to submit an information request to Tesla’s engineering department. The information requested had to do with the number of alleged defects that Tesla is aware of relating to their autopilot functions; including Forward Collision Warning or Automatic Emergency Braking. NHTSA also requested results from tests Tesla has done or plans to do in relation to their autopilot systems.
Tesla Autopilot Crashes
Since that initial Tesla autopilot crash, many other crashes around the world have been reported. In China a Tesla slammed into the back of a road sweeper after failing to brake.A statement from Tesla said that they are unable to determine if autopilot was on at the time of the accident. In Germany, a Tesla car operating in autopilot mode hit a bus. The driver however says that the autopilot had nothing to do with the crash. A Texas man says the autopilot on his Tesla sent him off the road and into a guardrail. He said at the time he wasn’t paying full attention as it was a path the Tesla had taken many times before in autopilot. The driver is not suing Tesla but his auto insurance might. There were also two other nonfatal accidents in Montana and Pennsylvania that are related to the autopilot function.
Tesla Autopilot Successes
Despite these accidents, there are many people who credit the autopilot function on their Tesla for saving their life. For example, Diana Becker of Los Angeles said that during a long road trip through the West with her kids, her Model X saved her family from colliding with a driver who crossed in front of them suddenly. She stated that while driving over 400 miles in one day, autopilot was her “second pair of eyes”. Another man from Missouri relied on the autopilot in his Tesla so drive him 20 miles to a hospital after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
While a Tesla autopilot crash is rare, it isn’t unheard of. Should autopilot technology be researched and more advanced before they become allowed on the road? In Tesla’s case the driver has to have their hands on the wheel; should that be the standard for all self-driving cars?