Tesla’s “Autopilot” is currently linked to several fatal
crashes around the world. Concerns about the safety of vehicles equipped
with the high-tech feature have consumer protection groups calling for a recall.
Earlier this year, a
Florida man died when his Model S slid underneath the trailer of a truck that had turned left in front of the vehicle. According to Tesla, "neither
Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer
against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied."
Autopilot is also suspected of contributing to several other crashes around
the world. In China, a Model S in inexplicably slammed into a road sweeper
without braking and killed its 23-year-old driver. Most recently, a Tesla
vehicle smashed into a construction barrier truck in Germany while traveling
at a high rate of speed, seriously injuring the driver.
While Tesla has publicly emphasized that autopilot "is new technology
and still in a public beta phase,” the feature is currently available
on 25,000 Tesla Motors Model S cars. Critics also contend that the car
maker is overselling the capabilities of the self-driving feature.
“How many more lives must be lost and crashes happen before Tesla
Chairman Elon Musk will take responsibility and act to protect our safety?”
asked John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director. “The problem is that Tesla encourages people to believe Autopilot
can do more than it really can,” Simpson added. “The name
itself is a huge problem.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating
the Florida crash. In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles is
working to amend its autonomous vehicle regulations to prohibit the use
of terms like “autopilot” in vehicles that still require significant
human involvement to operate safely. Under the draft law:
A vehicle cannot be advertised as autonomous in California unless it meets
the definition of “autonomous” specified in Vehicle Code §38750
and the autonomous vehicle regulations. The terms “self-driving”,
“automated”, “autopilot”, and other statements
that lead a reasonable person to believe a vehicle is autonomous constitute
advertising regulated by the truth-in-advertising provisions in the Vehicle Code.
We will be closely tracking these regulations and will post updates as
they become available.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a dangerous
or defective motor vehicle, don’t hesitate to contact
a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free