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Nicoletti Walker Law Group Aug. 24, 2016

On July 10th, the New York Times featured a story indicating that the second federal agency has launched an investigation concerning the fatal Florida crash that involved a Tesla vehicle operating in autopilot mode. The Tesla car failed to stop when a tractor-trailer truck turned right in front of it. As a result, the driver was killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident alongside the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Florida Highway Patrol. The key question is: Was the autopilot system specifically at fault for the accident?

The Florida Accident

All that was known about the accident is that the autopilot was reportedly engaged at the time, however, neither the driver nor the system engaged the brakes prior to impact. Specifically, Tesla’s news release reported that the autopilot and the driver must not have noticed the white tractor-trailer because the sky was “brightly lit,” so the brakes were never applied.

While there is definitely concern over the accident—especially since there has since been an additional accident involving the Tesla autopilot system in Pennsylvania—the fact that the federal transportation safety board is now also investigating alongside the other agencies is a signal that there will likely be even more scrutiny on Tesla’s technology than originally thought. In both accidents, Tesla claims that the cars did not send any data back to them indicating that autopilot was in use, although the one Pennsylvania driver who survived reported to the police that autopilot was engaged at the time of the accident.

How Autopilot Works

Autopilot works by using a camera and radar to steer, detecting other moving cars under certain conditions. However, drivers are warned that they should still always keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay alert while the car is in use. This will be a tricky balance to strike, as the cars have been advertised as potentially being able to reduce highway fatalities, but the need for drivers to intervene when there is a dangerous situation remains, and this may be difficult if drivers have come to rely on the system to do all the driving.

This month, the federal traffic safety agency is also set to release a new set of regulations governing the testing of self-driving cars like these on public roads. But the question becomes: Why are these cars being used now, before there are even regulations in place governing their testing procedures?

Reach Out to an Attorney Who Cares

The roads are dangerous enough given the number of distracted drivers without also having to be concerned about drivers who rely on an autopilot system to engage the brakes, only to have that system fail and cause a serious accident.

Clearwater attorney Mike Walker understands all of the frustration and fear that accompanies any kind of car accident. It can be especially harrowing when new technology is involved, and thus it is even more difficult to figure out where the fault lies. If you’ve been injured in an accident, he will help you get back on your feet. Contact the office today for a free consultation.