The First AutoPilot Related Death Possibly Happened Back in January
Nobody can deny that things have been a little rough for Tesla lately. After than fatal accident back in May, the company has found itself constantly under the microscope by every media outlet on the planet. But, as it turns out, that accident may not have actually been the first fatal accident involving the company’s AutoPilot system. Reports have begun to surface of another fatal accident that occurring in China back in January of 2016.
In this specific accident, there is actually dash cam footage that shows a Model S plowing into the back of a street sweeper on the highway. It’s pretty clear that the Tesla didn’t even try to brake before the accident, but what isn’t clear is whether or not AutoPilot was engaged at the time of the accident. The last accident that occurred in China involving AutoPilot didn’t result in any injuries, but did result in Tesla changing its wording on its Chinese site to remove to words “self-driving.”
As for this accident just coming into the light nine months after it happened, Tesla is currently investigating the situation. Tesla has already released a statement claiming that it couldn’t retrieve log information from the car due to the extensive damage and the driver’s family has yet to supply any information:
“We were saddened to learn of the death of our customer’s son. We take any incident with our vehicles very seriously and immediately reached out to our customer when we learned of the crash. Because of the damage caused by the collision, the car was physically incapable of transmitting log data to our servers, and we, therefore, have no way of knowing whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. We have tried repeatedly to work with our customer to investigate the cause of the crash, but he has not provided us with any additional information that would allow us to do so.”
For now, that is all we know about the incident aside from the fact that the driver’s family has, in fact, filed a lawsuit against Tesla. And, while that may be the case, it may not work out in their favor. The owner’s manual of every Tesla clearly states that the Traffic-Aware Cruise control cannot detect all objections and may not brake for stationary objects when the vehicle is driving at higher speed.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Tesla might as well be public property with the way every media outlet has literally kept the company under a microscope. Tesla’s system is advanced, but there are a number of warnings and systems in place to help drivers pay attention to what’s going on. I don’t think it should matter whether or not AutoPilot was engaged at the time of this accident for one reason: Even through the Model S didn’t see that street sweeper, the driver clearly could have, had he been paying attention and keeping his eyes on the road like he was supposed to. I don’t see the lawsuit from this family going anywhere, but we shall see.
In the end, this news is breaking just days after Tesla announced upgrades to the AutoPilot system that will use the radar system as the primary sensor. But, there is now another question raised that almost everybody has ignored thus far. Considering this accident happened in January and is just now hitting the headlines, did Tesla know about it when the fatal accident in Florida occurred? Did Tesla intentionally withhold information regarding this crash to cover itself? Tesla claims it has reached out repeatedly to the family to learn more information, so it seems to me that Tesla may have known a long time ago and kept it under wraps. Despite the fact that I clearly put the blame on the driver, as he should have seen the truck and reacted accordingly, this still doesn’t look too well for Tesla.
If you’re interested in seeing the dash cam footage, you can see it around 4:30 in the video below. But, before you click play, remember that the accident did result in a fatality.