In May 2016, a Tesla driver traveling 65 m.p.h. plowed into the side of a semi-tractor-trailer that was crossing the road in front of him. The Tesla driver was killed instantly, but the semi driver was not injured. The Tesla was on auto-pilot at the time and the driver was apparently watching a Harry Potter movie.

After a preliminary investigation, Tesla reports that what likely happened is the software, relied on to trigger automatic braking in the self-driving car, could not distinguish between the sky and the white color of the semi. That resulted in the semi not registering with the auto-pilot software as an object in the pathway, so the signal to brake was not activated. Since the driver was occupied and not watching the road, he did not manually apply the brakes. The Tesla ran full-speed into the side of the truck with its roof ripped off as it skimmed under the truck. Tesla says this set-back does not take away from the value of self-driving cars.

Learning from the Tesla Driver’s Mistake

About 70,000 Tesla cars with auto-pilot installed, like the one involved in the crash, are currently on the road. Tesla does not plan on changing that, stating that drself driving electronic computer car on road, 3d illustrationiver error caused the crash, not the failure of its auto-pilot system. As the auto-pilot now exists, Tesla tells its drivers not to take their hands off the wheel and to pay attention to the road. Other executives say Tesla sends mixed messages since it also tells drivers the auto-pilot feature can take over for three minutes without driver involvement.

A Tesla executive noted that the auto-pilot cars had traveled “tens of millions of miles” with no problems. What the company learned from this fatal crash was the need for driver education programs. These programs would show how the self-driving mechanisms work in order to prevent any similar crashes from occurring in the future. Those who are injured in a car accident with a Tesla or any type of vehicle may need to contact a personal injury attorney and seek compensation for their damages.

Self-Driving Cars May Prevent Auto Accidents

Despite the Tesla tragedy, most auto executives predict that “fully autonomous” cars will be ready in five years. Control of the car will be placed in software. Other executives say it will not happen for 15 years. Studies indicate that as many as 90 percent of all accidents could be prevented and approximately $190 billion that is spent annually on property damage and health care costs could be eliminated.

One road safety expert says that current systems which have auto-pilot mechanisms that rely on the driver taking over at a moment’s notice are actually less safe than those anticipated for the future, which will be fully automatic and not require driver involvement.

If you were involved in any type of vehicle accident, contact one of our Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Campbell & Associates.