An earlier crash involving a model S in Florida however was fatal to the passenger in the car. This happened over two months ago after both the autopilot and passenger failed to apply the brakes before the crash happened.
After offering their sympathies to the family of Joshua Brown (the passenger in the car), Tesla then released this statement to the public about the crash:
We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.
Following our standard practice, Tesla informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred. What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.”
But since that tragic event, Tesla had not come out to make a public announcement about what it intends to do about the autopilot. But this recent accident must have tipped their hands to make a statement to reassure the public that they are on top of the situation.
Sounding quietly hysterical, Consumer Reports made some demands on Tesla concerning their cars. The summary of that report is; Tesla should scale back on further developments of the sedan.
The reply by Tesla to the report was appropriate. And we stood solidly behind that reply. Cars would have accidents no matter what. And being machines, it is impossible to make them 100% perfect. That was what Consumer Reports demanded of Tesla. The perfect car. How is that possible? Even planes crash from time to time. Nobody has called for the scrapping of air travel.
Or is it because Consumer reports cannot afford an aero plane to do their independent tests they find it impossible to make that call on airplanes?
The bottom line is, as far as I am concerned, the fact still remains that on any scale, autonomous cars are safer than normal cars.
However, it seems the latest tweet by Elon Musk on the issue of working to modify the auto pilot is a sign that the furore from the easily excitable public has got to him. The series of tweets indicated that Tesla would be working closely with the German makers of the radars used in the autopilot.
The American transport agency is still investigating the cause of the crashes. The result of said investigations would also affect other companies like Google who are also working on their own autonomous cars.
Here is the thing, if the government decided that the fault of the accidents were the autopilot’s fault, the government might decide to suspend further development of those kinds of cars. That would be a waste of time and huge amounts of investment for everybody concerned.
Cooler heads should prevail here. Accidents happen.
Besides, we know that for high tech cars like Tesla’s Mode X, constant upgrades are just part of continuous development of the software. So, the upgrade to the car’s software would have happened even without the accidents. The aim of these companies had always being to make better and safer cars for the public. And make some money while at it.
image credit: flickr.com; scorebook.com; YouTube;