A Tesla owner has informed the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that his vehicle crashed in California while using its Full Self-Driving software.
According to news reports, the 2021 Model Y’s owner filed a complaint with federal safety regulators after a crash on Nov. 3
The driver reported that the car went into the wrong lane and that the vehicle was struck by another driver in the next lane. Media outlets reported that NHTSA reached out to Tesla for additional information. The automaker has not made any comments on this incident.
Serious Safety Issues with Self-Driving Software
Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software, which has been slowly rolled out in the U.S., has received criticism and is viewed as controversial by some. The add-on software costs as much as $10,000, but some critics say it is not exactly “full self-driving” as the name suggests. In other words, they say, it could be misleading to say market the vehicles as “fully autonomous.”
Electrek, a blog about electric vehicles, posted a more detailed account of the California driver’s complaint. It said the vehicle “gave an alert halfway through the turn” after which the driver attempted to turn the wheel to prevent it from going into the wrong lane. It added that the car took control and forced itself into the wrong lane “creating an unsafe maneuver and putting everyone involved at risk.” The complaint also said the Model Y was severely damaged.
NHTSA is already engaged in an investigation of Tesla’s semi-automated driver-assist software called Autopilot, which is standard in all of their vehicles. Between June 2016 and May 2021, NHTSA looked into 36 car accidents that involved Tesla electric vehicles and or other vehicles with self-driving features. Thirty of those investigations involved Tesla vehicles, eight of which resulted in fatalities and five others caused serious injuries.
The Need to Put Safety First
Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving system appears to have similar problems as the Autopilot. In both cases, the name gives the impression that drivers can count on the vehicle to operate itself safely. However, according to the vehicle owner who complained, the vehicle seemed to have a “mind of its own” and went into the wrong lane even as the driver tried to correct the vehicle’s course.
This is truly disturbing. Tesla needs to slow down or shut down its rollout until all safety concerns are addressed. The public cannot be used as experimental subjects just so an automaker can roll out these new technologies. Safety must always come first.