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Tesla’s Autopilot Feature: Is it Safe?

In car view of Tesla Autopilot Feature

By Grace Hancock

People are again questioning the safety of Tesla’s autopilot feature after yet another deadly collision. An article published by CNNBusiness detailed a recent fatal crash of a Tesla Model S that occurred in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas. The vehicle occupants, two men ages 69 and 59, died in the accident.

The head of the Harris County police precinct that responded to the crash gave his thoughts on the incident. 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

The car involved in the recent crash in Texas did not have its autopilot feature engaged at the time of the accident, according to a tweet made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “Data logs recovered so far” are the basis for this claim. Musk has yet to share the contents of the log sheet. The CEO has also not shared if the data logs ran up through the moment of the crash.

Tesla’s Autopilot Feature 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 available for purchase as a package along with a Tesla vehicle.

“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” according to the website. 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. Tesla describes the system as being able to “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 on automated vehicles. This law makes 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 a crash involving a Tesla vehicle has left you injured, you need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We help you get the compensation 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. There, he represented, defended, and completed many jury trials for insurance companies in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Mike learned the tactics insurance companies use constantly to minimize the amount paid to legitimate personal injury claims.

Our team at Hancock Injury Attorneys always stays one step ahead. Contact us online or call us directly at (813) 915-1110 for your free case consultation today.