Tesla’s Autopilot Involved in Fatal Crashes on Roads

In a series of fatal and serious crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot, a Post analysis has revealed at least eight incidents occurring on roads where the driver assistance software was not designed to operate. The latest incident, dating back to 2019, highlights a deeper issue than driver inattention, as Tesla’s Autopilot technology failed on a rural road. The tragedy claimed the life of Benavides Leon and gravely injured Angulo.

Autopilot Failures Beyond Intended Operating Zones

Video footage exclusively obtained by The Washington Post depicts the moment a Tesla on Autopilot crashed into a truck parked on a rural Florida road in 2019. The investigation reveals a pattern of Autopilot failures in areas where the technology was not intended to be used.

Video credit- Washington post

Increasing Toll of Fatal and Serious Incidents

The crash in 2019 is just one of at least eight fatal or serious wrecks involving Tesla’s Autopilot on roads outside its designated operational domain. The incidents span from 2016 to the most recent in March 2023, raising concerns about the safety of the technology.

Regulators’ Response and Ongoing Tensions

Despite calls for action after the 2016 crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has limited regulatory power over Tesla, leading to tensions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy criticizes the inaction, emphasizing the need for enforceable rules around where Tesla’s technology can be activated.

Heading 4: Tesla’s Position and Legal Implications

Tesla, in user manuals and court cases, acknowledges Autosteer’s limitation to “controlled-access highways” but has taken few steps to restrict use. In court cases, the company argues it is not liable for Autopilot crashes, placing responsibility on the driver. Legal battles, including a lawsuit filed by Angulo, challenge Tesla’s marketing and negligence.

NHTSA’s Complex Role and Criticism

The NHTSA, tasked with auto safety standards, faces criticism for not taking definitive action. NHTSA claims verifying the technology’s usage within design limits is complex and resource-intensive. NTSB Chair Homendy questions NHTSA’s priorities, urging proactive measures to prevent further casualties.

Industry Comparisons and Lack of Oversight

Experts highlight the consequences of insufficient government oversight on rapidly evolving autonomous technology. The reactive approach contrasts with other transportation sectors like planes and railroads, where incidents prompt swift regulatory action.

Tesla’s Autopilot System Under the Spotlight

The Post identifies approximately 40 fatal or serious crashes involving Tesla’s driver assistance software since 2016. Autopilot’s reliance on rudimentary maps and exceptions to rules raises concerns about its safety and effectiveness, prompting calls for sensible safeguards.

Urgent Calls for Regulatory Action Amidst Growing Safety Concerns

The string of Autopilot incidents underscores the need for comprehensive regulatory action to ensure the safe deployment of autonomous technology on the nation’s roadways. With regulators and Tesla facing increasing scrutiny, the future of Autopilot and its impact on road safety remain uncertain.

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