Three crashes that killed three people have heightened the scrutiny on Tesla’s much talked about Autopilot Driving System. Autopilot Driving is the system Elon Musk and Tesla designed to put self-driving cars on the highways of California.
Recently in Gardena a Tesla Model S left the freeway at a high speed, ran a red light and struck a Honda Civic killing the occupants of the Honda. Later that same day a Tesla Model 3 hit a parked fire truck on an Indiana freeway killing a passenger in the Tesla. And on December 7 another Model 3 struck a police cruiser on a highway.
The special crash investigation unit of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is looking into the Gardena crash and hasn’t decided whether or not to look into the crash in Indiana. NHTSA is also looking into the crash involving the police cruiser. What these crashes have in common is the suspected use of the self-driving feature and why it failed to avoid the avoidable crashes. Tesla says the self-driving option is only designed to assist drivers.
The NHTSA has started investigations into 13 Tesla crashes dating as far back as 2016 where they believe the autopilot was operating. Jason Levine from the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety in Washington says “At some point, the question becomes: How much evidence is needed to determine that the way this technology is being used is unsafe?” Levine and others have called on the NHTSA to limit the use of Autopilot to four-lane divided highways without cross traffic and to mandate a better on-board system to monitor drivers to make sure they are paying attention. Until that time comes it appears people will remain at increased risk.
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