American electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc , has verified reports that a person was killed after one of its Model S electric vehicles crashed while in “autopilot mode.” According to an article published on Detroit Free Press, the Model S failed to detect a tractor that was turning in front of the vehicle, leading to the crash, & eventually, the death of the driver. The crash occurred on the 07/05/2016 in Williston, Fla. The source also announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had begun an investigation into the incident.
The article read “The case illustrates the experimental nature of autonomous vehicle technology that has attracted billions of dollars of investment from the auto and technology industries,” perhaps suggesting that these incidents are inevitable when developing such technologies. Tesla’s Model S & Model X EVs are both equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB.) AEB is designed to use the brakes of the vehicle at the latest possible moment to avoid or lessen the damage of a crash. Tesla’s AEB system is not routinely used, & it is more of a last resort.
Tesla Motors Inc’s Stock May Fall
Although the crash occurred almost 2 months ago, Tesla Motors Inc’s acknowledgement of its autopilot system falling may unsettle investors, & cast doubts over the future of the technology. Tesla’s autopilot system features on many of their electric cars, & it will also be available on the recently launched (unveiled on the 31/03/2016) Model 3, which costs around $35,000.
The fall in share price may be big, small or non-existent, but shareholders & analysts are anxious to see how the market reacts to the news when trading begins on Friday Morning.
Incident is Isolated – Autopilot System Developed by Tesla Motors Inc is Safe
A post on Tesla’s website stated “This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.”
The post went on to explain how the circumstances were exceptional, reading “Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.” The firm has previously promised to improve its autopilot system.
As trading ended on the 30/06/2016, a share in Tesla Motors Inc was up by 0.99%, trading at $212.28. The stock was therefore trading at a 5-day high, & Tesla’s market capitalization was $32.26 billion.