Sustainability Infrastructure

Increasing number of crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot system alarms critics

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Story at a glance:

  • There are two dozen active investigations regarding crashes caused by passengers who drove using Tesla’s Autopilot function.
  • The Autopilot system is not autonomous, meaning the vehicle is not driving by itself.
  • Ten people have been killed in accidents involving Teslas, eight of them in crashes where a vehicle was using Autopilot.

The Maldonado family is suing Tesla after one of the company’s vehicles failed to detect and react to traffic conditions — causing 15-year-old high school student Jovani Maldonado to be killed in his father’s truck.

The surviving victims want accountability from the company for the star feature of Tesla’s electric vehicles, which enables passengers to enjoy hands-free driving, The New York Times reported.


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There are about two dozen active investigations regarding crashes caused by passengers who drove Tesla vehicles using the Autopilot function, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA).

Autopilot is not autonomous, meaning the vehicle is not driving by itself, but rather using software cameras and sensors to prevent human drivers from making common errors to prevent accidents, even if it means changing lanes. The feature was designed to help drivers who are prone to mistakes and distracted driving; it was not intended to drive people to their destinations, according to a Tesla forum post


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Since 2016, there have been at least three Tesla drivers who died in crashes where Autopilot failed to detect things on the road, such as a concrete barrier, and did not brake in time to prevent a collision. In total, at least 10 people have been killed in eight accidents caused by Autopilot from 2016, according to the NHSTA, not including a 2019 crash that is the subject of the most recent lawsuit. Roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities occur each year in the U.S.

There are several pending lawsuits currently filed against Tesla. One case, Naibel Benavides Leon v. Tesla, involved a 22-year-old driver who crashed into a parked Chevrolet Tahoe after their Model S failed to stop at a T intersection while the Autopilot feature was on. A suit filed in May by Darel Kyle, 55, claims he suffered serious spinal injuries when his van was rear-ended by.

Other car manufacturers such as General Motors or Ford Motor have modeled their electric vehicles to steer them away from the same mistakes Tesla has made. For example, GM’s Super Cruise shuts down and requires the driver to take the wheel after drivers ignore repeated warnings to keep their eyes on the road.


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