AutoDrive or AutoPilot Caused Accidents

The National High Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently deep in the midst of a massive investigation into the Autopilot driver assistance system that is used by Tesla’s vehicles, after several crashes in which a Tesla struck another car while Autopilot was turned on.

And recent reporting has unearthed that Tesla may in fact have more data that they’ve yet to turn over to investigators about these accidents. The team at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are closely following the investigation at the NHTSA, as this developing story unfolds.

What Is the Tesla NHTSA Investigation?

Tesla has now reported at least 12 incidents where a vehicle using Autopilot crashed into a stopped emergency vehicle. These crashes have caused 17 injuries and one death. The NHTSA will examine how the Autopilot system identifies and reacts to obstacles, as well as how it monitors drivers while Autopilot is turned on.

There are over 765,000 Tesla cars currently under investigation, including:

  • Model 3
  • Model S
  • Model X
  • Model Y

This type of investigation may ultimately lead to a product recall, and the automaker can also be fined if it is discovered that they failed to report a safety defect in a timely manner.

Other Automakers Are Now Also Under Investigation

While the NHTSA initially was focused solely on Tesla, they have now broadened their investigation, requesting data about the autopilot systems of 12 other automakers, including:

  • Toyota
  • General Motors
  • Ford
  • Volkswagen

By the spring of 2021, the NHTSA had launched 34 investigations into crashes that involved some form of vehicle automation: Tesla cars were involved in 28 of these crashes.

Full Self Driving Tesla

Despite this investigation, Tesla went ahead and launched what it has dubbed “Full Self Driving” for some drivers. The decision to test this software with untrained vehicle owners on public roads has drawn sharp criticism, and to the surprise of few, has been accompanied by reports that it has often made dangerous decisions.

Cars in FSD mode have been reported:

  • Neglecting “road closed” signs
  • Braking unexpectedly, even when the road is clear
  • Turn signals randomly going off and on
  • Drifting into the wrong lane
  • Crashing into other vehicles

Tesla May Not Have Presented All the Data It Has on Crashes

While the NHTSA is busy delving into the data that Tesla has turned over to date, Reuters recently reported that a Dutch forensic lab has now decrypted data from Tesla’s closely guarded driving data-storage system.

While it was already known that Tesla cars store this type of data, the Dutch team reported it discovered far more data than investigators had previously been aware of, and specifically a wealth of data on the Autopilot system.

Why Do Self Driving Cars Crash?

The driving assistance software that Tesla and other automakers use has long been known to have a literal blind spot; the inability to spot stationary objects, such as parked emergency vehicles.

If these systems did not ignore stationary objects, they might react to all sorts of items on the side of the road, such as signs or buildings. The software assumes that the driver is paying attention, so the vehicle will ignore any stationary object when the vehicle is traveling at more than 40mph.

Autopilot Caused Accident Lawyers

At first glance, it makes sense that a vehicle shouldn’t expect there to be anything stationary in a lane when a vehicle is going above 40mph. But parked emergency vehicles or vehicles that have broken down in the middle of the road are unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence.

The current, and most pressing issue with Autopilot systems on vehicles is that humans are usually very good when actively involved in driving, but quickly lose attention when asked merely to supervise an automated system that works well “most” of the time. By calling a vehicle “full self driving” or saying the vehicle is on “autopilot”, automakers like Tesla are signaling to consumers that they can check out and relax, even if the fine print in their manual says they need to stay alert.

The self-driving car accident attorney’s at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are closely following the NHTSA investigation into Tesla and other automakers, and gathering data on these crashes. If you’ve been involved in an accident where autopilot or full self driving mode was active, we want to hear from you. Contact us today at 1-866-333-7715 or online via our form.