Advanced auto safety technologies are supposed to make roads in West Virginia and across the United States safer. However, a string of crashes involving Tesla’s AutoPilot feature suggests that these technologies are making drivers dangerously complacent.
In May, a 28-year-old Utah woman crashed her $100,000 Tesla Model S into a parked fire truck while using the car’s AutoPilot mode. AutoPilot is advanced software that takes over certain driving responsibilities for the driver, making the vehicle semi-autonomous. These responsibilities include steering, braking and collision avoidance. However, drivers are still supposed to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road. According to police, data from the crashed Tesla revealed that the woman had taken her hands off the wheel more than a dozen times in the drive cycle preceding the crash. There were two instances where she kept her hands off the wheel for more than one minute.
Tesla and other automakers are adding safety features to vehicles that prompt drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and stay alert. However, many drivers are simply ignoring them. In March, a man was killed when his Tesla X smashed into a median in California. Data from the vehicle showed that he ignored several prompts to take control of the vehicle. Even more disturbing, third-party companies are already offering products that allow drivers to outsmart a vehicle’s safety features. For instance, a product called AutoPilot Buddy is designed to fool Tesla vehicles into thinking a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel.
When car accidents are caused by inattentive or negligent driving, injured victims have the right to pursue compensation. A personal injury attorney may help a victim prepare a claim and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or opposing counsel.
Source: USA Today, “After a Tesla crash, more doubts drivers can be trusted with driver-assist tech such as AutoPilot,” Marco Cava, May 18, 2018