According to Tesla Motors, a man was killed while driving his Tesla in Autopilot mode when his vehicle collided with the trailer portion of a tractor trailer. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating the involvement of the Tesla Autopilot feature in the fatal truck accident.
Tesla points out that Autopilot is disabled on its cars when they are purchased and it is an optional feature that needs to be activated by the driver. This particular driver was an avid fan of the Autopilot feature and even posted videos online of how the feature worked.
Tesla strongly recommends that the driver also monitor the road and keep his or her hands on the steering wheel at all times when Autopilot is engaged. Tesla points out that the feature is an additional safety mechanism, but the driver must stay alert. According to Tesla, engaging the Autopilot feature while staying alert, provides extra safety to the driver and helps prevent car accidents.
This particular wrongful death car accident apparently happened when the safety features on the Tesla did not recognize the white trailer of the truck due to the bright sky. With this information, we are sure Tesla will do its best to address this apparent flaw to prevent future accidents.
Tesla also claims that this is the first death that has occurred during its Autopilot feature, with over 130,000,000 miles traveled on Autopilot. This compares favorably with a US fatality rate of one death every 94,000,000 miles and, according to Tesla, the worldwide rate is one fatality every 60,000,000 miles.
It certainly appears that many more automobile manufacturers are pursuing driverless vehicle technologies. It remains to be seen how safe this technology will be when more cars on the roads are using it. Will more driverless vehicles lead to more or less accidents? We certainly cannot automatically trust a vehicle on Autopilot. If you are using an Autopilot type future, you cannot simply watch a movie or go to sleep while driving. Even though an accident is unlikely, it is still very possible.
The heirs of the man who was killed may file a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla, blaming Tesla for its malfunctioning feature that led to this unfortunate truck accident.