SAFETY: Driver in Latest Tesla AutoPilot Crash Doesn’t Blame the Car

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A recent fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S has everyone, including federal investigators, looking more closely at the Autopilot feature. The most recent incident with the autonomous technology involved a Model X, but the owner isn’t upset with Tesla.

It all happened in Montana when a driver identified only by his last name, Pang, swerved off the road in Autopilot mode. He was on his way from Seattle to Yellowstone when the crash happened around 12:30am last Saturday.

The road wasn’t an easy one to navigate. State Trooper Jade Shope told CNN Money, “It’s a winding road going through a canyon, with no shoulder.”

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Thankfully, Pang and his passenger weren’t hurt, but it was still a serious crash. The car lost its front passenger wheel when it veered off the road and struck some wooden stakes at a speed of around 55-60 mph. The posted limit is 55 mph.

Unlike other incidents involving Tesla’s autonomous features, this time, the driver isn’t immediately pointing his finger at faulty technology. Tesla confirmed that the car was in Autopilot mode with both the company and Pang agreeing that his hands weren’t on the wheel at the time.

Pang claims the car didn’t warn him that there was a problem or that he needed to take control of the vehicle, although there is the potential for confusion since he speaks Mandarin and the car’s warnings are in English.

This is where Tesla takes issue with Pang’s actions. Not only do they advise against using AutoPilot on undivided roads at high speeds, the owner’s manual specifically states that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel at all times in case they need to take control.

Pang received a citation for careless driving which casts further doubt on who is to blame. It seems Pang was at least partly at fault for the accident.

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Although Pang was unhurt and is eager to hear from Tesla to understand what happened, not every driver has been so lucky. Joshua Brown was killed on May 7 when his Model S hit a tractor trailer as the truck crossed in front of him on the highway.

Tesla Autopilot

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating that crash. Not only do they want to fully understand what happened in this incident, but they hope to learn from it as well.

Autonomous technology is becoming more common and with it we will have more accidents. Each provides an opportunity for companies and federal authorities to learn, improve the technology, and make our roads safer.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin