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Another Tesla Crash Probes More Inquiries

Another Tesla Crash Probes More Inquiries

Another Tesla Crash Probes More Inquiries 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Is Tesla’s Autopilot feature safe?

Recently, another Tesla sedan was involved in an accident while believed to be in semi-autonomous mode. The accident happened in South Jordan, Utah, when a Tesla vehicle rear-ended a fire department truck traveling at about 60 miles per hour. Investigations have thus far revealed that the vehicle never even braked before impact. So far, the driver of the sedan has admitted that she was looking at her phone at the time of the crash, but the vehicle was in Autopilot mode. This is the latest in a series of accidents involving Tesla’s autopilot, which has many consumers asking, is Tesla’s semi-autonomous mode safe?

Tesla’s Autopilot Accidents

In addition to the recent Utah car accident, Tesla vehicles have been involved in at least two other serious accidents in the past year. One accident happened in Florida when a Tesla vehicle crashed into a turning 18 wheeler, leading to a fatality. An earlier crash occurred this past July in Pennsylvania, when a Tesla vehicle struck a guardrail, causing the car to turn into a median and flip.

Tesla owner Elon Musk has already publicly fired back about questions regarding the safety of his high tech vehicles. Musk commented on Twitter that it was “super messed up” that a Tesla crash that resulted in just a broken ankle has made headline news, while the 40,000 plus fatal auto accidents that happen each year get little news coverage. While his point has some validity and the vehicle should be lauded for withstanding such a serious crash, it still stands to reason that the Autopilot feature may have some kinks that need additional work.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature remains new and in “beta mode.” Vehicle users are clearly informed that they must remain alert and keep their hands on the wheel at all times. However, some drivers like this Utah driver, appear to be lured into a false sense of security with the Autopilot mode engaged. For American drivers who are already often distracted, Autopilot may offer an excuse to look at their phones, daydream, or otherwise, disengage with the task of driving.

Fault for these Tesla accidents is thus two fold. First, the Autopilot feature is clearly not perfected. It should have acted to break the Utah vehicle, but the technology is still evolving and needs more work. Second, Tesla drivers need to avoid over relying on the still developing Autopilot feature. Semi-autonomous vehicles are clearly an important step forward and will no doubt save many lives, but for now, drivers cannot lose their focus on the road ahead.