Tesla Motor Inc. has been the focus of much attention in recent weeks as three serious Autopilot crashes have been reported. Collectively, they’ve come to sideswipe the EV producer and its bid to rally the public’s focus on essential future endeavors. The most recent of these accidents allegedly took place over the course of last weekend. During that time, a Tesla Model X in Montana took a nearly fatal turn.
However, Tesla has not shied away from any of these crashes and reiterates its advice to users of its famed Autopilot tech. Quite simply, the best and safest self-driving car experience takes places when users don’t use Autopilot at high speeds. Autopilot is not to be thought of as free from error either. Drivers should still pay careful attention to the road and not let go of their steering wheels.
Tesla Crash in Montana
On his way from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park, a Tesla owner wrecked parts of his luxury EV in the early hours of Saturday morning. No injuries were sustained during the crash and both the driver and his passenger walked away relatively unscathed. The same can’t be said for his Model X though, which lost its front right wheel from the accident.
While using Autopilot, the car allegedly veered to the right of the double-lane highway and mounted a series of wooden guard pegs on the side of the road. Tesla Motors agrees that the Model X in question was using it autonomous tech at the time. However, the company also believes the driver did not have his hands on the wheel either.
According to Tesla, for two minutes after the self-driving system was engaged, “no force was detected on the steering wheel.” Tesla insists that its EVs can detect even the slightest application of force on its steering wheels, even one hand.
The driver was prompted a few times by the system to place his hands on the wheel, Tesla reports. The road was becoming more uncertain yet the driver ignored the Autopilot warning. “He did not do so and shortly thereafter the vehicle collided with a post on the edge of the roadway.” reports the EV maker.
Tesla went on to say that its Autopilot system really shouldn’t be used on undivided roads. Drivers are also reminded to keep control of the car at all times.
NTSB sees opportunity in Tesla deaths
Though tragic, the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) sees a learning opportunity in Tesla’s Autopilot crashes. It has just joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in looking into the death of Joshua D. Brown. Driving along a motorway in Florida, Brown lost his life when his Model S was involved in a collision with a truck. Tesla reports that the man’s autopilot was enabled at the time of the accident.
Although the Safety Board explained that it is investigating Brown’s incident as well, it takes a more educational stance than its co-investigators. For the NTSB, these accidents offer a chance to learn from the widening use of automation on public roads.
“There’s an opportunity to learn from the information about how automation is introduced into American highways,” the NTSB assured. “The interest in this accident relates to the automation.”
More crashes deter people from Tesla
A few days after Brown’s crash made headlines, we learned of another Autopilot incident. Though unlike the event in Florida, gallery owner Albert Scaglione survived a brutal crash in his Tesla Model X SUV. It is alleged that he too had his Autopilot engaged at the time.
Scaglione’s car was flipped onto its roof while moving on the Pensylvania Turnpike, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. Both Scaglione, 77, and his son-in-law survived the wreckage and were treated at a nearby hospital. He told CNN Money that Autopilot was engaged during the accident, but refused to comment any further. Being able to walk away from the intense crash has many people pointing out the strong life-saving qualities offered by Tesla EVs.
These recent automation crashes call the safety of self-driving systems into question. Automakers are instilling more of this technology into their cars and it is beginning to gather a lot of distrust in its early stages.
For Tesla, moving forward from these crashes is vital. The EV firm needs investors and the public to funnel huge amounts of support behind its ongoing efforts. The growing doubt looming over its technology does little to rally such support. Hopefully some more exciting ventures like the Model 3 concept will take center stage again. Such projects are enough pressure for the EV giant and need all the positive attention they can get.