Why Hasn't NHTSA Forced Tesla To End Autopilot Sales? The Simple Answer
On March 1st, about nine weeks ago, Tesla's newest model equipped with its latest version of Autopilot crashed into the side of a semi-trailer and killed the occupant in the Tesla. The vehicle did not slow down. It did not make any moves to avoid the huge object blocking its path. According to the NTSB, it hit the trailer across its lane at 68 MPH (13 MPH above the legal limit for that road).
Related Story: NTSB 2019 Crash Report Deja Vu- Tesla Model 3 While On Autopilot Drove Straight Into Truck Killing Occupant
Multiple Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash Types
This wasn't the first time that a Tesla has crashed into a huge object in its path while Autopilot was in control of the vehicle. In fact, it wasn't even the first time a Tesla had hit a semi-trailer while Autopilot was in control killing its occupant. So what will it take for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to act and force Tesla to recall or disable this flawed system? Simple. The death of a single first responder or other special "civilian" of note.
Related Story: Watch A Tesla On Autopilot Crash Into A Highway Barrier (No Injuries)
Every Model Type Tesla Builds Has Had A Fatal Autopilot Crash
Tesla presently sells three models of vehicles. The full-size Model S luxury-performance sedan, the Model X luxury minivan-crossover, and the Model 3 premium-performance compact sedan. Every one of these models has now killed its occupant when the Autopilot system was engaged by driving directly into something obviously in its way. For example, a Model X drove into a highway median barrier. In each case, the Autopilot system drove the vehicle directly into a static or slow-moving object in its path that any attentive driver would have seen well in advance. Weather has never been a factor. None of the fatalities occurred on twisty one-lane roads. They were all on open stretches of highway. None were caused when another vehicle hit a Tesla. The Autopilot system simply drove the vehicle directly into something big without slowing down, and without trying to avoid the object in its path.
Teslas On Autopilot Hit Many Different Types of Things
Semi-trailers and roadway barriers are not the only huge and highly-visible objects that Autopilot has driven directly into. At least three Teslas being operated by Autopilot have been reported as driving into the back of firetrucks that had stopped to do their duty assisting other motorists. These were emergency vehicles with lights flashing painted in colors that are intended to make them as visible as possible. Another Tesla being operated by Autopilot drove straight into the back of a parked police SUV.
Related Story: Third Tesla Crashes Into Back of Firetruck - That's Four Crashes Into Emergency Vehicles This Year
Tesla Deaths and First Responders
What it will take for Tesla's Autopilot system to be pulled from the market is simple. The death of a single first responder or possibly an innocent bystander. Tesla has so far dodged a bullet. Its Autopilot system has been killing the owner/occupants of the Tesla cars that Autopilot crashes, but none of the people in the vehicles that Autopilot drove into have been killed - yet.
America is a funny country in some ways. We value the lives of some citizens more than others. Some of the lives we value more than others include first responders and children. Teslas on Autopilot have not yet killed any of these special citizens. Just Apple employees, former military specialists, and other types of us. Not the sort of person who's untimely passing hits that special spot in our collective psyche that forces us to take immediate and significant action.
NHTSA Action On Autopilot Deaths
Hopefully, Tesla will fix its flawed Autopilot system. Hopefully, the last death and the last crash of a Tesla operated by Autopilot has come and gone. However, if it has not, and if a special member of society is the next to die, expect Tesla's Autopilot system to be pulled from the market by NHTSA.
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Image Note: The images used here have credits listed within the links in the story.