Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?
A Tesla Model S was involved in a crash in Beijing last week with yet another driver blaming the Autopilot feature of the vehicle. According to a news report, this is the first alleged Autopilot crash in China and there’s video of it too. In the video from CarsNewsChina, you can see that the Tesla Model S was moving quite safely when a disabled vehicle on the left comes into view about 100 feet after a warning triangle.
Tesla Strikes Disabled Vehicle
The car in front of the Tesla had no issue moving over in its lane to make room. However, the Tesla, which was in Autopilot, did not see the disabled car and crashed into it. The driver said he had to manually stop the car because otherwise it “would have kept going, as if it had just hit a speed bump.” The accident, he said, caused him more than $7,500 in repairs. The driver also criticized Tesla for exaggerating the abilities of the Autopilot functions while only giving scant warning that it’s an assistance system on which drivers shouldn’t always rely. It hasn’t been confirmed whether the Tesla in Beijing was on Autopilot when it crashed. The incident is still under investigation and Tesla hasn’t responded yet.
Tesla CEO Doubles Down
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has doubled down and stood by the Autopilot technology, which is considered a precursor to the fully autonomous or self-driving car. The Autopilot software uses cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to perform basic functions including steering, changing lanes and adjusting speed in response to traffic and parking. The technology is available in the company’s latest car, the Model S. Musk says the technology “will improve” over time and that a second, fully autonomous version of its Autopilot will be “even safer” than the current technology.
As auto defect attorneys who represent seriously injured clients and their families, we are deeply concerned about the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot technology. We know of at least one death and a handful of incidents where these vehicles have crashed when the drivers had the Autopilot feature on. Obviously, the technology is not working as it was marketed or advertised. Tesla has been blaming drivers for not keeping their hands on the steering wheel.
If that’s a requirement, then why call the feature “Autopilot?” The company needs to make up its mind about what its Autopilot feature is – and more importantly — what it’s not. Consumers cannot be treated like laboratory rats for Tesla’s experiments.