According to a recent NY Times article, the Federal Auto-Safety Regulators ruled that defects in Tesla’s Autopilot were not to blame in the death of Joshua Brown. Unfortunately, in July of last year, Mr. Brown was using the new Tesla Autopilot system on a highway when it failed to detect a tractor-trailer that was on the road in front of his car. When the truck appeared, neither the driver nor the Autopilot system activated the brakes which caused the Tesla to slam into the other vehicle. He was reportedly driving at 74 miles per hour.
The Tesla Autopilot system uses cameras to search all sides of the vehicle for other obstacles and vehicles. The system has the capability to both brake and accelerate. Tesla has acknowledged the limitations that this new technology may face. In the few years that it has been on the market, it has proven its ability to brake in order to prevent rear-end collisions. Situations that deal with vehicle crossings are proving to be a more difficult challenge for Tesla’s engineers.
The crash may have been caused by a camera failure to recognize the truck’s side white color and may have interpreted it as the sky. Mr. Brown was also reportedly not paying attention when the crash happened.
In an amazing advancement in technology, Tesla is able to have software downloaded directly onto its cars for updates or new versions of the auto-pilot technology. In the meantime, Tesla is gathering the data from all of its users of the Autopilot to make its vehicles safer. For example, older versions of Autopilot allowed a driver to remove his hands from the steering wheel for minutes at a time. This could create a false sense of security that may end up having dangerous results.
So far the technology overall appears to be working. Car crashes have declined 40% after the company introduced the autopilot technology, although this may be due to only using the autopilot feature on highways and not inside parking lots and driveways. It is important to recognize that Tesla advertises the system as semi-autonomous. This means that drivers are expected to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road at all times while the car is driving. Mr. Brown had purportedly posted videos on YouTube of himself riding in the car without his hands on the wheel.
As the new technology progress, other major car manufacturers are rolling out their own systems of autonomous and semi-autonomous software. They often use the combination of radar and cameras, just like Tesla. Hopefully this new technology can make the roadways safer and reduce the stress of driving.
If you have been injured by an autonomous car operated by Lyft, Uber, Tesla or some other company, you are still entitled to your rights! At Druckman & Hernandez, we have concentrated our practice on injury cases for the past 20 years. If you have any questions about an injury claim, please call us for a FREE consultation at 908-353-5850.