The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded its
investigation into a fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system.
The agency concluded that the technology, which is capable of autonomously
steering and controlling the vehicle, “played a major role”
in the accident.
As previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the
Tesla vehicle was in Autopilot when it slammed into a tractor-trailer, killing a 40-year-old Florida
man. Joshua Brown’s Model S went 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 serious car accidents around the world. In China, a Model S inexplicably slammed into a road
sweeper without braking and killed its 23-year-old driver. In Germany,
a Tesla vehicle smashed into a construction barrier 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.
Investigation into Florida Tesla Crash
The NTSB agreed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s
conclusion that the self-driving technology performed as intended and
did not suffer any malfunctions that contributed to the crash. However,
its report further found that the system’s design is flawed because
it allows drivers to rely on it too heavily.
According to NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt:
“Tesla's system worked as designed, but it was designed to perform
limited tasks in a limited range of environments. Tesla allowed the driver
to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed,
and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention
to something other than driving. The result was a collision that, frankly,
should have never happened.
The fatal crash highlights that while many auto manufacturers are working
to incorporate self-driving aids into new vehicles, the technology is
still in its infancy. As a result, there are risks to drivers as well
as everyone else who shares the road with these vehicles.”
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury in a California
motor vehicle crash, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego personal injury lawyer
at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.