Tesla autopilot crash leading to man’s death was unavoidable
The fatal accident which took the life of the 40-year-old driver in the United States is the first major accident that happened while a computer was at the wheel. The Tesla Model S which he drove was controlled by Tesla’s autonomous driving system, Autopilot, at the time of the accident, raising questions over the reliability of Autonomous driving systems.
The accident occurred when a 18-wheeler trailer-hauling truck made a left turn across the Tesla’s path. The Model S failed to brake and it ran underneath the trailer. According to the 62-year-old truck driver, the Tesla’s sole occupant was watching Harry Potter on the TV screen when the accident happened and was driving so fast that he couldn’t even see him going through his trailer.
Tesla responded by saying that the Autopilot system failed to distinguish between the white paint and the clear bright sky, which led to the fatal result. Tesla also called this accident a “tragic loss” and also pointed out that it was the first accident that involved Autopilot after roughly 200 million miles of operation. They also reminded customers that the Autopilot system is not perfect and requested Tesla drivers to pay attention even when the Autopilot is active. Earlier, Tesla has also said that the Autopilot was more like an advanced Cruise Control system with manual override possible at any moment.
Mobileye is the company that developed the technology for Tesla, and is currently working with other carmakers as well. Mobileye has said its technology was not designed to deal with the kind of situation that resulted in the crash, as their “Automatic Emergency Braking” system is designed for rear-end collision avoidance, but this incident involved a laterally crossing vehicle, which current-generation systems don’t act upon. Mobileye says their systems will include Lateral Turn Across Path (LTAP) detection capabilities beginning in 2018.
Separately, there is an earlier story where the driver of a Tesla Model S says his car drove itself into the back of trailer after he parked and left the car to go shopping. And more recently, investigations are ongoing over a crash involving a Model X, whose driver claims Autopilot was in use when he hit a guardrail and bounced into a concrete barrier, causing the car to roll.