There’s a lot of buzz about self-driving cars — many industry experts predict that they’re going to take over the future car market and usher in a new era of roadway safety.
However, a deadly accident in 2016 involving a vehicle made by Tesla, the leader in the self-driving car market, put everything in doubt. Suddenly, the self-driving cars of the future didn’t seem so safe after all.
Another, more recent crash involving a Tesla smart car, sent five people off the road and rolling into a marsh — once again causing people to question the safety of the autopilot features.
However, more information has emerged about both accidents that suggest that human error — not the autopilot system — was to blame.
The autopilot system in current self-driving vehicles is meant to supplement the human driver, not replace it. Unfortunately, people may be taking the autopilot feature to its limits in order to test what it can do — with disastrous results all the way around.
In the earlier car accident, in which the Tesla’s driver was killed, the autopilot feature instructed the driver to take the wheel seven times before the car eventually drove into a truck that had crossed into its lane. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the driver only touched the wheel for a total of twenty-five seconds during a thirty-seven-minute ride.
In the second accident, the driver initially blamed the autopilot for suddenly accelerating. Almost immediately, he backtracked, saying that it was his fault the car had crashed and that he wasn’t paying enough attention when the vehicle came to a point in the road where he needed to choose a left or right turn.
In the future, it’s highly likely that autopilot features will appear in the majority of modern vehicles — but the lesson to be learned is that having an autopilot feature on a car doesn’t relieve the driver of the responsibility to stay alert and practice safe driving habits. Those who push the boundaries of what the autopilot can do will likely end up in an accident.
If you’ve been in a car accident and need legal advice, an experienced attorney can provide more information.
Source: CNN Tech, “Driver killed in Tesla crash was warned seven times to put hands on wheel,” Chris Isidore, July 21, 2017