Was Tesla Car Autopilot at Fault for Deadly Crash?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary investigation after a fatal crash occurred while using a vehicle’s “Autopilot” feature while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Shortly thereafter, another Tesla Motors Model S has come under scrutiny because of a fatal collision on the Florida Turnpike. A tractor trailer truck drove across a divided highway, in the path of a Tesla Model S that was driving with the high-tech autopilot system engaged. The Tesla passed under the tractor trailer, at the same time, the undercarriage of the trailer hit the windshield of the Tesla.

Tesla Accident Autopilot in PennsylvaniaTesla Motors Say Autopilot Feature is Aid, Not Replacement for Driver

Most people would not understand or believe how the Tesla autopilot worked unless they got behind the wheel and checked it out. The system consists of a radar system and a forward-facing camera, as well as handfuls of ultrasonic sensors mounted at various points on the car to create “situational awareness.” The camera has the ability to watch markings on lanes and speed limit signs, as well as prevent the driver from drifting. The ultrasonic sensors on the cars have a range of 16 feet and can detect when other vehicles are too close.

Autopilot has control over more basic parts of the car, as well, using digital technology. The brakes and steering wheel are two of these parts. While Tesla Motors views their autopilot system as just a step in an incremental process toward fully driverless cars, drivers are obviously taking for granted and overestimating the abilities of the technology.

The Cameras Did Not Detect the Side of the Trailer?

When asked this question, Tesla Motors answered that they are not sure precisely why the cameras did not detect the side of the trailer truck. They did suggest a “lighting or other imaging issue” may have prevented the system from detecting the obvious obstruction ahead. If the driver of the Tesla had applied pressure to the brakes, the Autopilot would have noticed, however with the white side of the tractor against the brightly lit sky, the driver did not see the trailer, either.

Waiting on the Results of the Investigation

Many, including Tesla Motors, are waiting to hear the answers that come out of the investigation. The outcome could affect more than 25,000 Tesla Motors Model S cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the autopilot was indeed operating when the crash occurred, and “calls for an examination of the design and performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash.” This would be the step prior to the agency ordering a recall regarding whether or not the Tesla S model vehicles are unsafe.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact the law offices of Solnick & Associates. Our Pennsylvania law firm specializes in car accident lawsuits and will fight to get the compensation that you deserve.

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