The driver regrets that Autopilot wasn't switched on when he careened into a tree.
Tesla's Autopilot suite has been praised and criticized in equal measure. On the one hand, it's hard not to marvel at a piece of technology that automatically stops your car for you as it approaches a red traffic light. But Autopilot has also attracted its fair share of controversy, especially after a fatal accident involving an inattentive Tesla Model X driver a few years ago.
Now, another Tesla owner, this time a driver of a Model 3, was involved in an accident. But rather than blame Autopilot, this driver claims that if his vehicle's Autopilot had been switched on, he probably would have avoided crashing straight into a tree that totally wrecked the front of the Model 3.
The driver's name was Martin Grefte and he explained the reason for his crash in a series of tweets. Basically, he had just received a message that his sister-in-law was "taken into IC" (intensive care) due to having the coronavirus. It's the type of message that would leave any of us shocked and upset. Distracted by the news, Grefte drifted off the highway and crashed into a tree at around 45 mph.
Although the Model 3's hood and front-end were destroyed, the passenger compartment remained perfectly intact, so Grefte was able to escape with little more than a few scratches. Later, he tweeted to say: "Had I been on autopilot, I am sure it would not have happened."
He further explained that when you exit a highway, Autopilot automatically switches off. He usually puts it back on, but on this occasion, he failed to do so. "In this case, [I'm] sure Autopilot certainly would have been better than human pilot and would have avoided the crash," he quipped.
While Grefte must be relieved to escape without serious injury, the accident makes a strong case for the Model 3's solid safety cell. The driver's experience with Autopilot also indicates that some owners do have faith in the system's ability to avoid a potential collision, although the most reliable means of staying safe is to remain attentive at all times. A few commenters on Twitter tweeted Elon Musk, suggesting that Autopilot should take over if it senses a crash, even if it has been switched off - it's not a bad point.
What did Grefte do the very next day after the accident? He went out and bought a new Model 3.