Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?
A Tesla on Autopilot mode crashed into a ditch at the Interstate 280-Highway 85 interchange in Cupertino the night of Jan. 17. According to a Bay Area News Group report, the collision of reported on the connector from the northbound 280 to northbound 85. The driver lost control of the red Tesla, which was on Autopilot mode at the time and ended up in a ditch on the right-hand shoulder of the connector.
California Highway Patrol officials said Autopilot did not keep the Tesla on the road in this case. In late November, a Los Altos planning commissioner fell asleep behind the wheel of a Model S and the car cruised seven miles before CHP officers stopped him and arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.
What’s the Danger of Autopilot?
The promise of driverless technology is that it will make our roads safer by reducing car accidents caused by human error, which is in fact the main cause of a vast majority of accidents. However, automakers and tech companies have a long way to go before they can get rid of the driver altogether. In the interim period, what we have is a messy situation as automakers work out the glitches. Of more concern is the fact that when automakers like Tesla call something “Autopilot” it gives people a false sense of security causing them to overestimate the technology’s capabilities.
So, you had someone who attempted to put the car on Autopilot and attempt driving while impaired. We still don’t know what caused this driver to lose control of their vehicle in Cupertino. But it is not far-fetched to imagine that drivers are tempted to view the Autopilot feature as a license to drive while drunk, distracted or fatigued.
Don’t Call it Autopilot
Since the number of crashes involving Autopilot has been increasing, Tesla has been warning drivers that they should never take their hands of the wheel even if the vehicle is on Autopilot and that they should be ready to take over at a moment’s notice. So then, here is our question? Why call something “Autopilot” when it’s not really performing those functions? The name is not just misleading, but it’s dangerous. As car accident lawyers we are concerned that the misleading marketing of these vehicles could put Tesla drivers and others on the roadway in a dangerous position.