Tesla’s “Autopilot” system is an optional driver-assistance feature which employs sensors that provide a 360-degree view around the car, extending up to roughly 750 feet. It processes visual, sonar, and radar information to make rapid adjustments as necessary.
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Autopilot can provide lane assistance, regulate speed, automatically change lanes, detect objects, apply the brakes, and self-park. But an attentive driver is still required behind the wheel to respond when prompted.
Many automotive experts believe a weak spot in the Autopilot system is that Tesla does not incorporate high-detail mapping, unlike most companies invested in driver-assistance features. Two fatal Tesla crashes in Florida—one in 2016, another in spring 2019—shared eerily similar circumstances. Both cars were autopiloted directly into the side and underneath turning tractor-trailers, with no reduction of speed prior to the crashes. Cross-referencing high-detail mapping can enhance a driver-assistance system’s ability to distinguish obstacles that need to be avoided and reduce the chances of being “fooled.”
Other industry experts believe Tesla’s marketing sends mixed messages (the name “Autopilot” itself is misleading). Drivers should keep their hands on the wheel while using Autopilot, but when Tesla demonstrates and speaks of their product, it has sometimes been presented as if it were a driverless (“autonomous”) car, lulling some drivers into a false sense of security.
Drivers who activate Autopilot or similar systems, manufacturers of these systems, and possibly government agencies charged with oversight may share liability for harm caused by crashes.
Technology can be exciting and ultimately beneficial, but it’s not hazard-free. If you become the victim of a negligent driver—or flawed technology—contact an auto accident attorney to protect your rights.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help After a Car Crash