Self-Driving Car Dream is Eroded by Tesla Lawsuits
A few years ago, self-driving cars were seen as the future of driving. Today, the self-driving car dream is in trouble amid a mounting toll of serious accidents and lawsuits.
Tesla is facing another lawsuit, this time from a woman who drove into a fire truck when the Autopilot was on. Although these cars are not hailed as self-driving, they are seen as an important step in the direction of autonomous vehicles.
Heather Lommatzsch filed a lawsuit against Tesla in a Utah state court claiming negligence over a crash in May.
Lommatzsch’s Tesla Model S hit a fire truck when the car was driving in Autopilot mode. Lommatzsch was looking at her phone at the time. She said she was under the impression the Tesla would stop automatically in Autopilot.
The woman broke her foot in the accident. In the lawsuit, she claimed she suffered physical impairment and lost the enjoyment of life.
Why Tesla Autopilot is Under Fire Following Crashes
Tesla’s Autopilot function was rolled out three years ago. The company boasted it could control all steering, braking and lane switching.
Since then, cars driving on Autopilot have failed to stop on a number of occasions. A Tesla driven on Autopilot has hit a fire truck on at least three occasions.
In August, a Tesla Model S hit a parked fire truck in San Jose, California. Two people traveling in the car suffered minor injuries. The driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI. The driver told police he believed he had the Autopilot on.
A report in Wired noted a Tesla Model S drove into the back of a stopped firetruck in Los Angeles County in January 2018. The driver said the car was in Autopilot mode.
The Wired report said the car’s manual states it may not decelerate for stationary objects when driving at over 50 mph.
All of the occupants in crashes involving Teslas and fire trucks escaped with their lives.
However, a Tesla driver in March was not so lucky. Walter Huang was driving in Autopilot mode when the vehicle sped up and hit a concrete barrier in Silicon Valley, California. Huang was killed in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted the car sped up from 62mph to 70.8mph in the seconds before the crash and did not brake or steer away from the obstacle.
In Florida, two Fort Lauderdale teens died and a third was injured after the Tesla Model S they were driving crashed and caught fire. The crash also raised alarming questions about the Tesla battery pack. The NTSB report into the crash revealed the battery reignited twice after firefighters extinguished the blaze in the electric vehicle.
Serious self-driving car accidents occurred in vehicles other than Teslas.
In March, an Uber self-driving car killed 49-year-old Elain Herzberg, a pedestrian who was crossing the road in Tempe, Arizona. The Volvo failed to do an emergency stop. An investigation found the emergency braking maneuvers were disabled whilst the car was controlled by a computer.
What Do Lawsuits Against Tesla Claim?
Lawsuits like the one brought by Lommatzsch against Tesla claim the Autopilot program does not always do its job. The suit accuses Tesla of negligence. Lommatzsch is also suing Tesla for failing to warn Tesla owners the cars don’t avoid accidents.
People bringing defective products lawsuits against Tesla are seeking to prove the Autopilot system fails to drive the cars safely. Tesla has claimed the Autopilot feature reduces crash rates by 40 percent.
However, this statistic has been questioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It may be the key to successful lawsuits against Elon Musk’s company. While Tesla has reiterated the claim, other self-driving car manufacturers shied away from making claims or rushing their cars onto the market like Tesla.
Musk has said the onus is on the driver to avoid accidents. However, opponents claim the Autopilot mechanism is lulling drivers into a false sense of security.
Whatever the claims and counterclaims, the spate of accidents and lawsuits places the self-driving car industry on the back wheel. Although some automated safety systems are clearly reducing accidents, the best type of autopilot appears to be a human being.
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers helps people injured in car accidents across Virginia. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to the fault of another driver, please call us today at (757) 455-0077.