Tesla Crash Caused by Driver Inattention and Autopilot Design FlawOctober 10, 2019
In January 2018, a Tesla Model S slammed into the rear of an on-call fire truck on a California freeway. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was significant damage to the front of the Tesla. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the cause of the accident was two-fold; the driver was relying too much on the vehicle’s advanced driver assistance system and had his hands off the wheel for a portion of the trip. In addition, a flaw in Tesla’s Autopilot design allowed the driver to disengage from hands-on driving, despite warnings from Tesla.
The Tesla Model S has an onboard data recorder and other sensors that helped the NTSB determine the cause of the accident. Over the course of the 66-minute trip, the driver’s hands were off the wheel for 12 of the 13 minutes leading up to the crash. When a vehicle is in autopilot mode, the driver is still required to keep their hands on the wheel to maintain safe Level 2 driving, which means that the car stays centered in its lane and maintains a set speed.
Details of the Accident
Based on the data obtained from the vehicle’s recorder, the NTSB found that the trip leading up to the crash lasted for a total of approximately 66 minutes, covering roughly 30 miles. The Autopilot system was engaged for just over 29 minutes. The driver’s hands were detected on the wheel for only 78 seconds over the entire trip. During the last 13 minutes of the trip, the Autopilot system issued several hands-off alerts. In the final three minutes of the trip, and just before the crash, the Autopilot system did not detect the driver’s hands on the wheel.
The system did detect and follow the vehicle that was ahead of the Tesla. In the seconds before the crash, the data revealed that the vehicle the Tesla had been following changed lanes. Since it no longer detected a lead vehicle, the Tesla began to accelerate to 80 mph, which the driver had preset. The Autopilot detected the fire truck in the Tesla’s path only 0.49 seconds before the collision warning was activated. At this point the Tesla was travelling at a speed of 30.9 mph.
This accident prompted the NTSB to reach out to Level 2-autonomy car makers in the United States to find out what steps they were taking to develop apps that could gauge the level of driver engagement and alert the driver to maintain control of the vehicle, even while automated vehicle control systems are in use.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Autopilot Malfunctions
If you were injured in a car accident, and the other driver was relying too heavily in the autopilot technology, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our skilled legal team will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent car accident victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.