Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?
New information is emerging about a Tesla Model X crash in Montana where the driver, who identifies himself only as Mr. Pang, says the Autopilot technology failed and that his car veered off an undivided mountain road and crashed. Tesla has responded to this incident and one other in Pennsylvania, both involving Model X SUVs. Not to our surprise, Tesla has blamed the drivers in both of these crashes.
In both cases, the automaker says the vehicle’s logs show that the drivers ignored several alerts to take control of the vehicles before the accidents. Also in the both cases, the police cited the drivers for careless driving. But now, the driver of the Model X in Montana has come back with a public letter to Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk claiming that Tesla covered up problems with the Autopilot.
Placing the Blame on Consumers
While Tesla issued a statement saying Mr. Pang was at fault because he ignored repeated warnings, Mr. Pang says he received no such alert from the vehicle prior to the July 8, 2016 accident and that the vehicle veered on its own into the barrier. He claims that the Model X not only veered on its own, but that it didn’t even slow down after hitting the first post and that it hit 12 more barrier posts before he managed to stop the car manually. Even though it appears at this time that Tesla might have an edge with credibility because of the vehicle logs, the driver is claiming a cover-up.
He says Tesla never contacted him after the accident and that the company issued a conclusion without a proper investigation blaming him for the crash. He is alleging that Tesla is trying to cover up the lack of dependability of the Autopilot system, placing the blame squarely on him. Tesla is not interested to know why their car veered to the right suddenly or why the car did not slow down during the crash.
This part of Mr. Pang’s letter is telling: “It is clear Tesla is selling a beta product with bugs to consumers, and ask the consumers to be responsible for the liability of the bugging autopilot system. Tesla is using all Tesla drivers as lab rats.”
Tesla Needs to Take Responsibility
As California auto product liability attorneys who represent injured victims and families, we are deeply disturbed by Mr. Pang’s letter. Tesla seems not only unwilling to conduct a thorough investigation into why the vehicle veered off the roadway, but also places the blame on the driver. Tesla marketed its vehicles’ Autopilot as next-generation technology that will save lives and prevent crashes.
But, now that the glitches are surfacing, they seem to be covering up their rear ends by saying that it’s the drivers’ responsibility to make sure the car doesn’t crash by taking charge. We hope federal regulators thoroughly investigate these cases and force Tesla to suspend its Autopilot system until they can iron out all glitches. Tesla needs to stop using drivers as lab rats for their experiment.