No one Found in Driver’s Seat in Fatal Tesla Crash
By Grace Hancock
The safety of Tesla’s autopilot feature has been brought into question after yet another deadly collision. An article published by CNN Business detailed a recent fatal crash of a Tesla Model S that occurred in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas, which took the lives of two passengers. The victims include two men, ages 69 and 59, whose names have not been released to the public.
The head of the Harris County police precinct that responded to the crash, Constable Mark Herman, told CNN: “I can tell you our investigators are certain that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.” There is speculation that the occupants of the Tesla vehicle had been using the car’s autopilot feature at the time of the accident.
There have been multiple fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles and their autopilot feature. For example, in California in 2018, 38-year-old Apple engineer Walter Huang was killed when the autopilot of his Tesla Model X sent him out of his lane into a collision with a safety barrier that had been damaged days before. Phone records recovered from the scene show that Huang was playing a game on his phone at the time of the crash.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Response
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the “autopilot” feature available on the car involved in the recent crash in Texas was not engaged at the time of the accident based upon “data logs recovered so far.” Musk hasn’t shared the details as to what was shown on the log sheet, nor has he shared if the data logs ran up through the moment of the crash.
Autopilot does not Equal Self Driving
A blog post published by Consumer Reports in June of 2016 criticizes Tesla for calling their autopilot system “autopilot.” The post claims that the name is misleading and that it gives drivers the impression that their Tesla’s are self-driving when in fact they still require the constant attention of a human driver.
A support page on Tesla’s website explains the difference between their autopilot and full self-driving safety systems. Both are collections of driver assistance features that can be purchased as a package along with a Tesla vehicle.
The webpage states: “Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Tesla’s current autopilot hardware has the ability to autosteer and engage in traffic-aware cruise control. Tesla describes their autosteer feature as being able to “assist in steering within a clearly marked lane. Autosteer uses traffic-aware cruise control, another of Tesla’s safety features, which they describe on their website as being a system that can “match the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic.” Tesla’s autosteer does not work on city streets. There are neither autonomous cars nor true self-driving cars in existence today.
Florida’s Autopilot Laws
Back in 2019, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed a bill into law to make it legal for fully automated vehicles to use autopilot without a human driver in certain cases.
The exception is that the law is only for self-driving vehicles that are “equipped with an automated driving system designed to function without a human operator.” That describes Level 4 and 5 self-driving vehicles, which do not exist outside of test programs as of now. Tesla, for example, is only at Level 2.
Tampa Tesla Car Accident Lawyers- Hancock Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one have recently been injured in a crash involving a Tesla vehicle, you’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to get you the compensation that you deserve. Attorney Mike Hancock has excelled as a personal injury attorney for over 30 years, earning prestigious honors along the way.
During his first eight years of practice, Mike was an attorney at two large insurance defense law firms representing, defending, and completing many jury trials for insurance companies in personal injury and wrongful death cases. He was taught the tactics insurance companies use constantly to minimize the amount paid, or to completely avoid paying legitimate personal injury claims made by otherwise responsible and kind people from our community.
Our team at Hancock Injury Attorneys always stay one step ahead. Contact us online or call us directly at (813) 915-1110 for your free case consultation today.