Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?
The father of a woman who died in a DUI crash in Indianapolis says his daughter would have survived the collision is she weren’t driving a Tesla Model S. According to a KHOU news report, Casey Speckman’s blood alcohol level was at 0.21 percent after the crash, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The crash occurred when Speckman was driving with her boss (the vehicle’s owner) and swerved while trying to avoid a wrong-way driver. The crash was so violent that the debris field stretched about 150 yards, officials said.
Use of Lithium Batteries
The Tesla Model S is powered by a 1,200-pound battery pack, which is made up of several thousand small lithium batteries. The force of the crash reportedly caused the battery pack to break apart. Exploding lithium batteries are nothing new. We’ve seen news stories about everything from phones and e-cigarettes to hospital carts and hover boards – all powered by lithium-ion batteries — blowing up.
Tesla was also investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after a series of battery fires in 2013 Model S vehicles. However, that probe ended after Tesla strengthened its battery compartments. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has argued in the past that his vehicles are a lot stronger in that department than traditional gasoline cars.
Detectives are still in process of looking into how the electric vehicle behaved during the accident. Speckman’s father, Jon, says his daughter might be alive had she been driving a vehicle other than Tesla, which travels from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds. It is also unclear whether Casey Speckman’s foot hit the accelerator as she tried to swerve out of the way of the wrong-way driver.
This is not the first time Tesla’s electric vehicles have been in the spotlight. Back in May a fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature spurred a federal investigation into the vehicle’s assisted driving feature. That investigation has been closed and Tesla has also made improvements to its Autopilot feature while cautioning drivers that they should never take their hands of the wheel and should be prepared to take over at a moment’s notice, even if their vehicle is in Autopilot mode.
As auto product liability attorneys, we have always maintained that every automaker and product manufacturer should do their due diligence when it comes to testing and vetting their products before putting them in consumers’ homes. Injuries and deaths is not how we should find out about product defects and faulty automobiles. Manufacturers have a legal obligation to put safety before profits.