An 80-year-old cyclist was struck and, as a result, killed due to a Tesla collision. Reports say that it is unclear whether the driver had engaged the Autopilot feature or not. Incidents such as this raise questions regarding the reliance on autonomous vehicles.
There have been many incidents and even deaths as a result of Tesla cars. The Autopilot system provides safe-driving assistance. Drivers are prompted to place their hands on the steering wheel by visual and audio warnings as reminders. The Autopilot can be overridden upon driver engagement.
In this article, you will find answers for why the Autopilot feature malfunctions. You will also discover who carries the responsibility in the accidents and if purchasing a Tesla is worth it.
Have There Been Any Deaths Due to Tesla’s Autopilot?
In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a total of 36,096 vehicle fatalities. Fifty of those involved Teslas, and fourteen of the fifty were a result of the Autopilot feature. The administration has recently begun an immersive investigation into the causes of 10 crashes resulting in deaths caused by Tesla and its Autopilot function.
There have been numerous reports of Tesla accidents and deaths dating back to 2013. A reported total of 194 deaths have occurred in the US as well as other countries. There have been 135 in the US alone and 59 in other countries. The Autopilot feature had not been fulfilled until October of 2015 so it couldn’t have been the culprit in a majority of these accidents and deaths.
It has been determined that most of the accidents that occur involve the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model 3. The Tesla Model S has reportedly had more problems with its subpar front-end protection. It has also been reported that the Tesla Model 3’s poor braking system is slower than that of the average pick-up truck.
There have also been incidents in which Tesla cars in Autopilot mode injured or killed other drivers and pedestrians while no one was behind the wheel. This, along with reports of other incidents, leads one to believe the blame should be placed on the driver for lack of responsibility and not the Autopilot itself.
How Much of the Responsibility is Shared Between Teslas Autopilot and Drivers?
Tesla’s Autopilot feature has caused much confusion about who or what is to blame for the accidents and deaths that are direct results. There have been multiple incidents in which the Autopilot feature failed to perform the task appropriately during specific times. Some even claim that the Autopilot feature relinquished control to the driver unbeknownst to the driver.
In one particular incident, a 15-year-old boy died in a car crash involving a Tesla Model 3. The vehicle failed to detect traffic conditions to make the stop in time, colliding with the other vehicle and ultimately ejecting the boy from the car.
Since the Autopilot system signals for driver input, it is understood that the driver failed to slow down before the collision occurred. Tesla did not believe that the Autopilot was at fault. The driver was left with blame for negligent driving at a speed unsafe for driving.
There are multiple accounts of accidents and deaths of which there was confusion about where the blame should have been placed. Decisions such as these are hard to determine because of the faults that lie with Tesla’s Autopilot system.
What Makes Up the Autopilot Feature on the Tesla?
Three kinds of hardware contribute to the Autopilot feature in Tesla vehicles:
- Ultrasonic sensors
During Autopilot, ultrasonic sensors send out pulses to surrounding objects. The pulses are then beamed back to the Tesla so that the Autopilot feature can determine the following steps to take while driving. The downside of ultrasonic sensors is the ability for sensors to detect objects past a certain distance. This is one way in which the Autopilot feature could fail.
To make up the difference with ultrasonic sensors, radar is used in measuring longer distances. Waves are bounced off of objects at further distances and the information is relayed to the Tesla. Radar is also beneficial in autonomous vehicles because it works no matter the environment.
Shorter wavelengths are used with radar making it difficult to detect smaller objects and even misconstruing appropriate images of surrounding objects. This may be part of the reason why Tesla Autopilot systems have difficulty registering the difference between objects and their ratio, resulting in crashes and other collisions.
Cameras are used to detect objects that surround the Tesla vehicle. Eight cameras can be found on every model of the Tesla vehicle. Each camera is used for imaging purposes and is supposed to help the Autopilot system also judge what the next steps should be while activated.
All three kinds of hardware function together to provide the most accurate information to the Tesla so that the vehicle can make perform accordingly. Sometimes the Ai malfunctions causing the vehicle to become involved in accidents deemed reckless. A single malfunction in any of the Autopilot hardware can cause the entire system to act just the same.
How Dangerous is the Tesla Autopilot System?
In essence, Teslas are just as dangerous as any other vehicle out there if one is not practicing the correct rules and guidelines of driving. If the driver is not paying attention to what they are doing, it is possible to lose control of the car and potentially risk your life and others.
Three Tesla models ranked high, especially for the positive effect of front-end crash prevention:
- Tesla Model X
- Tesla Model S
- Tesla Model 3
Though the rankings were set in place by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, the results do not back up the findings reported regarding accidents and deaths caused by autonomous vehicles.
The Autopilot feature of the vehicle was manufactured initially as an optional package if one desired to have it added to the vehicle. Recently in 2020, Tesla has begun to implement a full-service drive or FSD so that the Tesla vehicle could maneuver totally on its own. Even with this advanced feature, Tesla continues to warn owners that the vehicle is not fully autonomous and that driver input is still necessary for safety precautions.
The term “Autopilot” is misinterpreted by many individuals that drive autonomous AI vehicles. Many believe that the Autopilot feature means that Tesla can drive and function on its own and that it is fail-safe. It is believed that this is the reason why many Tesla owners have been involved in collisions with other vehicles and objects.
If you are considering investing in a Tesla, there are several things you should consider. First, Teslas may not be your cup of tea if you feel that you won’t have control over the vehicle. Teslas are expensive cars and the main feature is the Autopilot. The Autopilot is designed to assist with safe driving rather than perform driving tasks on its own. It is because of this reasoning that Tesla vehicles require active driver supervision.
The concern for safety and news surrounding Tesla accidents and deaths is another aspect to consider. Tesla firmly states that they recommend drivers to keep their hands near or on the steering wheel, prepared to take over control of the vehicle in case the Autopilot feature malfunctions.
It is wise to note that the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Model 3 have been the main vehicles reported in many of the collisions that have taken place, despite the high ratings provided through various tests. If an accident were to occur, officials must determine whether or not the Tesla or the driver is accountable.