The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said it will investigate the 12th Tesla car accident due to its semi-autonomous driver-assist feature, potentially being the cause of the incident. According to a report on Exremetech.com, this car accident took place Dec. 7 in Norwalk, Connecticut. A 2018 Tesla Model 3 driving on Interstate 95 rear-ended a parked police car on the morning of Dec. 14. There were not any injuries to occupants in either car.
According to police, the 33-year-old driver had Tesla’s Autopilot feature activated as he drove on the I-95. Just before the accident, the driver said, he turned his attention to the back seat to ensure his dog was okay. Two state troopers were awaiting a tow truck to assist a disabled vehicle when the Tesla crashed into the police car, bounced off and then struck the stranded vehicle. The state police spokesperson added that the police cruiser had its flashers on and road flares behind it. The driver was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
How Misleading is the Autopilot Feature?
NHTSA officials say they are worried about the fact that more drivers won’t pay attention to the fine print on Tesla.com and that they may put too much value into Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk’s praise of the Autopilot feature making it seem like it’s fully autonomous. In reality, Tesla’s Autopilot is barely even a semi-autonomous feature. Tesla tells drivers to keep their hands on the wheel because the car may lose its ability to lane-center or because another vehicle may cut into your lane and slow down. The fact is, Autopilot cannot react to these real-life situations, which we have seen time and again.
Both NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have been involved in investigating Autopilot issues. The bigger concern now is that Tesla drivers report being able to drive the vehicle for longer periods without the car alerting the driver. In May, there was news of a porn actress’s tweet about performing sex acts with a boyfriend in a Tesla that was running on Autopilot.
Time to Take Responsibility
Elon Musk made light of that incident, an attitude criticized by safety advocates who have been calling for the Autopilot feature to be removed precisely because of these risks. Several people have been reported, right here in Southern California, of falling asleep behind the wheel while driving a Tesla on Autopilot. Another man in Northern California was arrested on suspicion of DUI after having passed out behind the wheel of a Tesla with the Autopilot feature engaged.
An “autonomous vehicle” is not something that should be taken lightly. People have died as a result of having been potentially misled by what this feature can do. Our auto defect attorneys have maintained that Tesla should change the name of this feature so drivers are not misled into believing that their car can do things it is not capable of doing. While groundbreaking technology is important, it should not come at the expense of public safety.