Federal Regulator Plans to Investigate Recent Tesla Crash

Self-driving cars are apparently the future of personal travel, with Elon Musk’s car company Tesla at the forefront of this movement. Self-driving cars come with great benefits, such as the ability to spend commute time working, reading, or eating breakfast, decreased traffic due to smarter driving capabilities, and decreased car collisions. While things seem to be going quite well for Musk’s mission to Mars, his self-driving company seems to have snagged. It’s important that if you or a loved one is injured in any type of car accident, whether it’s self-driving cars or not, you contact an experienced Las Vegas auto accident lawyer to learn what legal actions you can take.

Self-Driving Car Involved in High Speed Collision

In late January of 2018, a Tesla Model S slammed into the back of a fire truck on Interstate 405 in Culver City near Los Angeles, California. The fire truck was stopped at an angle while firefighters helped clear an accident on the other side of the highway. The fire truck was unoccupied and luckily no one was injured in the truck crash, though the Tesla was traveling at 65 miles per hour with its driver inside.

The driver of the Tesla states that he had initiated the “Autopilot” system. The Tesla owner’s manual repeatedly warns drivers that the Autopilot system is an “assistance” program and not autonomous driving, and as such the driver should pay attention to the road at all times. Other automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and others, have similar assistance programs that help keep the vehicle in its lane and automatically slow down or speed up based on the surrounding flow of traffic.

Tesla’s owner’s manual states that the Autopilot system cannot detect all objects and may not brake for stationary vehicles, especially when driving over 50 mph and a moving vehicle you are following changes lane and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you instead.

Federal Agency Investigation

An independent federal agency, The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), is reviewing the crash. This is the second time the board will be looking into a Tesla crash, and they will likely be very interested in whether the autopilot mode was activated and what sensor issues led to the collision. Every car crash that occurs has various factors that play into effect. Especially when additional technologies are added into the equation. Whatever accident you may have been involved in, it’s always best to contact a lawyer as it pertains to your case specifically.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has sent several investigators to Culver City to look into the matter. These investigators will focus on driver and vehicle factors, according to the agency’s Twitter posts. Though the driver told highway patrol officers that the autopilot feature had been engaged at the time of the crash, California Highway Patrol stated in a news release that it wasn’t able to verify this information.

In a previous investigation in May of 2016, the NTSB determined the Tesla Model S Autopilot feature had design flaws that played a major role in a fatal crash in Florida. This final cause of the crash was determined to be the inattentive driver who relied too heavily on the autopilot feature as well as the truck that made a left turn in front of the car.

How Automatic is the Tesla S Autopilot?

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has an automation scale that rates cars from 0 to 5 based on how autonomous they are. The Model S Autopilot ranks in at a level 2. These systems are typically restricted to interstate highways because they aren’t advanced enough to handle intersections. Level 2 automation is capable of remaining in a single lane at a set distance from cars ahead. It can change lanes and brake automatically, but drivers are supposed to maintain constant attention and to be ready to take control if necessary.

The radars and other sensors that allow the Tesla Model S to “see” other cars are meant to detect other moving cars and to monitor their speeds so as to prevent rear-end collisions. These sensors are not capable of detecting a non-moving object that was never moving, or a car suddenly turning into its path. Self-driving cars have not advanced enough to completely replace the attention of humans. Make sure you consult with an autonomous vehicle accident lawyer in Las Vegas to learn more.

NTSB Recommendations

Following the investigation in 2016 and again in January 2018, the NTSB has recommended that the government require all new cars and trucks to emit signals regarding the vehicle’s location, speed, heading, and other information to the surrounding vehicles in order to prevent collisions.

The agency also recommended that automakers developing autonomous cars implement a system that ensures the driver is engaged in the act of driving, even when “autopilot” features are on, such as by detecting the pressure of the hands on the steering wheel. The driver in the fatal crash of 2016 had his hands on the car’s steering wheel just 25 seconds out of the nearly 40 minutes of automatic driving.

Possible Dangers

Tesla has taken steps to ensure drivers are being careful when they use Autopilot. Newer vehicles can detect how whether the driver has their hands on the wheel and requires the driver to acknowledge visual and warnings in order to be able to use Autopilot.

Perhaps the true danger lies in the over-confident driver. Even before semi-autonomous vehicles were on the road, careless drivers were a risk. Individuals who don’t appreciate the dangers of driving and the limits of their capabilities continue to cause crashes by speeding and other reckless behaviors daily. Tesla and other manufacturers should remember this and take steps to make sure their cars are immune to this misjudgment. If you were in an accident caused by negligent drivers, contact a lawyer.

Speak to a Lawyer Today

Car accidents and motor vehicle accidents are the most common types of personal injury cases we handle. With over 15 years of experiencing helping victims of severe vehicle collisions, you can trust our Las Vegas injury attorneys at Harris & Harris Injury Lawyers to fight hard to get you the best result. Give us a call at (702) 384-1414 or contact us online to speak to a lawyer about your situation.