Surveillance footage from a crash on the San Francisco Bay Bridge shows a Tesla changing lanes then abruptly braking in the far-left lane. This action resulted in an eight-vehicle crash. The crash injured nine people, including a 2-year-old child while blocking traffic on the bridge for more than an hour. The driver said the car was in Full Self-Driving mode at the time.
The video along with images of the crash was secured by a California Public Records Act requests and gives the first complete look at what transpired during the Nov. 24 crash thus confirming eyewitness accounts. The Tesla driver told police he had been using Tesla’s new Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature before engaging the vehicle’s left signal when its brakes activated, and it moved into the left lane, slowing to a stop directly in the second vehicle’s path of travel. Hours before the crash Tesla CEO Elon Musk had announced the Tesla’s FSD capability was available in North America and proclaimed it as a “major milestone” for the company. Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta is now available to anyone in North America who requests it and has bought the option.
The Bay Bridge accident is one of several ongoing investigations into Tesla crashes. On November 18, a Tesla Model 3 crashed into a stopped Ohio State Highway Patrol SUV with its hazard lights flashing. The Tesla involved in this crash is also believed to have been in self-driving mode, and NHTSA is also investigating that crash. There is currently an investigation into a tweet by Musk where he said that FSD users would soon have the option to turn off reminder notifications for drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel. A Twitter user tagged Musk on the post: “Users with more than 10,000 miles on FSD Beta should be given the option to turn off the steering nag.” Musk replied: “Agreed, update coming in Jan.”
The San Francisco crash is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla vehicles accounted for nearly 70% of 329 crashes in which these advanced driver assistance systems were engaged. Most serious injuries and fatalities were associated with Tesla vehicles on Autopilot. Since 2016, NHTSA has investigated 35 crashes in which Tesla’s FSD or Autopilot systems were likely in use. These accidents were responsible for the deaths of 19 people. There are also reports where Tesla drivers have complained about sudden or “phantom braking,” when they say vehicles slammed on their brakes at high speeds without the driver initiating any such move. NHTSA got more than 100 of these complaints in just a three-month period.
Tesla has aggressively developed FSD as an essential vehicle feature. The automaker is feeling pressure to distinguish its products from other electric vehicles in a very competitive market. The term “Full Self-Driving” has received blowback from safety advocates because it is misleading and dangerous, similar to Autopilot, which is only a driver-assist feature but gives the impression because of its name that it is completely self-driving. Tesla has consistently covered up for the Autopilot, saying it has advised drivers never to take their hands off the steering wheel and be prepared to take over at a moment’s notice – even though the feature is called Autopilot. Other tech companies realize the danger of such terminology. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has also urged consumers to be wary of what is being marketed as “self-driving,” warning that what is being sold in the market today is driver assistance technology, not driver replacement technology.
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