While not a self-driving car, the Tesla Model X does have a semi-autonomous mode that assists drivers.
One of these electric cars crashed while using this mode in California. The Model X smashed into a barrier on the highway. Now, the investigation has shown that the car actually sped up right before the wreck.
The driver had set the car to go 75 miles per hour. It was speeding up and had reached 71 miles per hour at the time of impact. The driver did touch the steering wheel for some of the 60 seconds right before the crash, but only for a total of 34 seconds. This could show that the driver was counting on the car to keep itself under control. For the six seconds right before the crash, he never touched the wheel.
Naturally, the crash has caused people to question the safety of these systems, wondering just how capable they are.
The man driving the car was 38 years old, and he was killed in the wreck. That makes the outcome of the investigation very important in determining who was liable for the crash. Did the accelerating autopilot fail to keep the man safe?
Tesla has said that drivers do need to stay attentive, even when using the “Autopilot” mode. The company also claims that preventing all crashes is impossible and that the system was not designed to do so.
As companies work their way closer and closer to fully autonomous cars, accidents like this could prove very important, both in developing the technology and in sorting out who is liable after a crash.
Source: Bloomberg, “Tesla Model X in California Crash Sped Up Prior to Impact,” Alan Levin and Ryan Beene, June 07, 2018