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A Tesla Autopilot Feature Was Active in Fatal Texas Crash

Tesla said Monday that one of Autopilot’s features was active during the April 17 crash that killed two men in Spring, Texas. According to a CNN news report, police said neither of the men was in the driver’s seat at the time of the rash. Autopilot is a suite of driver-assist features, including traffic-aware cruise control and Autosteer. Traffic-aware cruise control matches the car’s speed to surrounding traffic, while Autosteer helps steer in clearly marked lanes.

Deadly Crash and Investigation

In Texas, the Tesla, a 2019 Model S, was traveling at a high rate of speed around a curve when it went off the road about 100 feet and hit a tree, officials said. One man was in the front passenger seat, and another was seated in the rear. Police said that just minutes before the crash, the men’s wives watched them leave in the Tesla after they said they wanted to drive and were talking about the Autopilot feature.

CNN reports that Tesla’s revelation may be at odds with its CEO Elon Musk’s initial description of the crash, who said two says after the crash that “data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled.” It’s unclear, however, if Musk was defining Autopilot in the most beneficial way to his company – by referring to the entire suite rather than the individual features that make up the suite.

Model S drivers can activate traffic-aware cruise control at the currently detected speed limit by pulling the Autopilot stalk on the steering wheel toward them. When they do that in quick succession a second time, the Autosteer system will activate. Officials said the Tesla that crashed in Texas did not have the Autosteer active. Some experts say one of the plausible explanations for the Texas crash could have been that the driver was confused and perhaps thought they had activated Autosteer.

Controversy Over Autopilot

Autopilot was first released by Tesla back in 2015. It has been a popular feature with Tesla drivers. It was also criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after two previous crashes. The NTSB called on Tesla in 2017 to develop better ways to ensure drivers were paying attention to the road. Consumer Reports has said that the name Autopilot in itself is dangerous because it gives consumers the idea that it might be fully autonomous when it is not.

Our auto defect attorneys have consistently maintained that driverless or semi-automated technology should not be available until it is ready for real-time roadway conditions. Autopilot has lulled drivers into a sense of false security, leading them to believe it’s safe to let the vehicle cruise. At the same time, on Autopilot and not pay attention to the road.


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California Personal Injury Blog