Tesla Crash in North Carolina Raises New Questions About Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving cars are hailed as the future of motor vehicles. However, a rising number of crashes in partially automated cars challenges this new technology. For instance, last month a Tesla crash in North Carolina raised new questions about self-driving cars.
How Did the Automated Tesla Crash in North Carolina Occur?
Tesla’s autopilot feature is the closest most drivers can get to riding in an automated car at present. Still, it is associated with a rising number of crashes, including one that happened just last month.
Police say a Tesla driver was watching a movie while using his car’s autopilot feature when the car hit a Nash County Sheriff’s Office deputy’s vehicle, the News & Observer reported.The accident occurred in August along U.S. 64 west close to the border of Nash and Franklin counties. Police were responding to another crash when the Tesla rammed into the deputy’s vehicle, which then collided with an N.C. state trooper’s car. Two of the cars were totaled. Police said nobody suffered injuries in the accident. Police charged the Tesla driver with violating the state’s move-over law and watching television while operating his vehicle.
About Tesla Self-Driving Cars
Tesla markets its cars as “the future of driving.” It says the autopilot feature enables the car to “steer, accelerate, and brake automatically within its lane.” However, Tesla’s website states the autopilot feature requires driver supervision. It does not make a vehicle autonomous.
Although Tesla’s autopilot feature is in the beta testing phase, many of the crashes involving the high-value cars indicate drivers put too much faith in it and fail to look out for dangers ahead of them.
Joshua Brown was killed in Florida in 2016 when his Tesla struck a tractor-trailer while in autopilot mode. A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) suggested Brown did not apply the brakes despite warnings and he hit the truck at 74 miles per hour.
After the crash, Tesla added improvements to its autopilot feature including new limits on hands-off driving and other features. Although these were meant to avoid a repeat of the accident, another driver in Florida died in similar circumstances three years later.
Jeremy Banner was killed driving a 2018 Tesla Model S when the car hit a tractor-trailer on a highway while in autopilot mode, shearing off its roof. Lawyers for Banner later filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Palm Beach County. The deceased driver had turned on autopilot 10 seconds before the crash, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report into the incident. Lawyers for Banner’s estate claimed the accident showed the defective nature of Tesla’s autopilot.
The lawsuit claimed Banner believed his Tesla was safer than traditional vehicles because “Tesla claimed superiority regarding the vehicle’s autopilot system, including Tesla’s ‘full self-driving capability.”
The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles
Tesla’s autopilot feature is linked to a series of serious and fatal crashes. In May 2018, a fatal Tesla crash involved two other vehicles in Mountainview, California. In 2019, a Tesla collided with a fire truck in Culver City, California. The series of Tesla autopilot failures highlight the inherent difficulties and complex legal issues surrounding self-driving cars.
More than 200 tech companies and start-ups are looking to take part in the autonomous vehicle revolution. Companies like Amazon are exploring the use of self-driving vehicles for deliveries.
However, self-driving cars would end up on highways designed for cars driven by humans. These vehicles are only as good as their software and may struggle to cope with extreme conditions like ice, rain, and snow. The shift of liability in injury claims from drivers to manufacturers could also prove extremely costly for self-driving car companies.
As Virginia defective product lawyers, we have helped people who suffered injuries when parts failed in non-automated cars. In recent years, defects such as faulty Takata airbags in cars have caused numerous injuries and a handful of deaths. The potential for self-driving cars to fail is even higher. If you or a family member has been hurt in a car accident, please call us today.