Not the First Time
As surprising as it is, it is not the first time that such an event has occurred. Just last month, a similar incident was reported, this time in the Los Angeles area.
Tesla Autopilot is an advanced self-driving system, but it is not without imperfections. Car accidents can happen. When drivers rely on the autopilot system, who is to blame? Is it the driver or the system?
A Reddit user known as Beastpilot took his Tesla Model X for a run on a freeway in Seattle. He noted that, in autopilot mode, his Model X steered towards the lane divider as if it was not there. He is not the only one to notice this. Consumer Reports tested the automatic lane-change feature of Tesla's Autopilot system and concluded that it poses a risk to its drivers. The report also noted that the function requires significant interaction from the driver.
Vice President of advocacy at Consumer Reports David Friedman said, "The Navigate on Autopilot driver-assist features overpromises and under-delivers, with lives on the line." He added, "Tesla is showing what not to do on the path toward self-driving cars: release increasingly automated driving systems that aren't vetted properly."
Autopilot is Only An Assist Feature
Time and again, Tesla continues to remind its drivers to stop relying on the autopilot feature entirely. Drivers must understand that the system is merely an assist feature. They must be ready to take control of the wheel at any time.
Car accidents related to drowsy driving are not limited to Tesla vehicles alone. Thousands of car accidents happen every year that often require help from car accident attorneys. Irresponsible driving often causes problems not only for the driver but for other people on the road as well. Car accidents, even when covered by insurance, are problematic because they can cost someone's life or can cause debilitating injuries.
It seems Tesla prepared for issues like these. With the launch of their Tesla Insurance, all Tesla car owners get discounts and preferred rates. The real problem, however, is the responsibility of the drivers behind the wheel. They must understand that the Autopilot is merely a feature to assist in driving and not a chauffeur that they can entrust their lives to.
Tesla's Safety Numbers
Incidents like these are not helping Tesla survive as a company. It hurts their not-so-good-looking balance sheets even more. As more people clamor for updates on the improvement of the self-driving feature, the company loses more money. In their recent report, Tesla claimed only one accident for every 3.27 million miles with Autopilot engaged. Without Autopilot, there is one accident every 2.19 million miles. However, the company does not provide any clear explanation of what they qualify as an accident and a crash.
The practice of driving while drowsy because of the added safety feature should not become a norm. The presence of autonomous driving tech should not be enough reason for drowsy or sleepy drivers to operate their vehicles. With incidents like these, it looks like the future with self-driving cars is still far off — a dream for constantly drowsy drivers and Elon Musk.