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Autopilot: Convenience, or a danger to other motorists?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

For decades, technological advances have steadily made cars and trucks safer to drive. Better structural engineering and safety features such as airbags have increased both driver and passenger survivability when accidents occur. But as one car accident shows, technological advancement can come with risks to everyone on the road.

Autopilot has limits

Recently, a California woman engaged the autopilot on her Tesla while driving the freeways near Glendale. According to reports, the driver was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, letting the autopilot drive her car while she fell asleep. The woman’s husband, who was following her in another car, called police while they were still driving and advised them of the hazardous situation.

California Highway Patrol responded, positioning their car in front of the Tesla and slowing it until it collided with a freeway wall and came to a stop. Police then awoke the driver, gave her a field sobriety test and arrested her after she failed.

NHTSA investigates autopilot

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun a formal investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system. NHTSA is concerned that drivers rely too much on the system, trusting it to handle situations it was not designed for. Drivers may use it when they are under the influence of alcohol, like the woman in the report, or even leave the driver’s seat entirely.

As part of their investigation, NHTSA has identified 12 different accidents involving Tesla’s autopilot system. Among those accidents, 17 people were injured and one was killed. Motorists must always be wary of the potential mistakes made by other drivers. Now, however, those mistakes include the possibility of another driver choosing not to drive at all – instead relinquishing control to their car and trusting it not to kill someone.