Who's to blame? The system or drivers?
The debate over whether Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system is safe or not remains in the headlines after yet another deadly crash. In recent days, two deadly crashes involving a Tesla have taken place, one of which is now being investigated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the Associated Press, the NHTSA is investigating a deadly crash on December 29 in Gardena, California involving a Tesla Model S engaged in Autopilot.
Police claim the Model S left a freeway and was traveling at a high rate of speed when it ran a red light and smashed into a Honda Civic at an intersection. A man and a woman in the Civic were killed at the scene while the man and woman in the Tesla had non-life threatening injuries. So far, no arrests have been made. It only took a couple of days for the NHTSA to assign its special crash investigation team to investigate the accident.
They have since inspected the Tesla and the crash scene, but they've been quite busy lately. Turns out this team has investigated a total of 13 crashes specifically involving Teslas that are suspected of operating with Autopilot engaged at the time of the incidents.
Unfortunately, there was yet another deadly Tesla crash in Indiana on the same day as the one above. This time, the Tesla rear-ended a parked fire truck alongside a highway. The driver was seriously injured and his wife was killed at the scene. The driver told investigators he regularly uses Autopilot but couldn't remember whether or not it was engaged at the time of the accident.
There's no word yet if the NHTSA will open an investigation into that incident as well, but there does appear to be something going on with Autopilot. Either the system is faulty or owners are misusing it.
Tesla defines Autopilot as a driver-assist feature specifically for lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, and automatic lane change. Last month, a Tesla Model 3 driver crashed into a parked police cruiser because he was distracted by his dog; he wrongly assumed the activated Autopilot would prevent a crash.