Regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have closed an investigation of a May 2016 crash involving a Tesla vehicle that was operating on autopilot at the time. Agency officials said that the Tesla Model S had no defects, and they also issued a warning that drivers must always pay attention — even when their vehicles are engaged in autopilot mode.
The Florida crash, in which a 40-year-old man died, made headlines around the world. It occurred when the Tesla Model S moved under a semi-truck trailer that was making a left turn across a highway. The accident drew the ire of critics, who claimed it demonstrated that self-driving cars are not yet safe for highway travel.
On the other hand, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has argued that there have been fewer accidents per miles driven in autopilot vehicles than those driven by human beings.
Driver error still a primary factor
In this and other investigations into self-driving vehicles, the NHTSA has found that many of these crashes result from human error, such as distractions, speeding and confusion during times when the vehicle and its driver are sharing operational tasks. Tesla also provides owner’s manuals and on-screen instructions making it clear that human drivers are still responsible for safely operating the car.
It may be several years before self-driving cars are the norm on U.S. roads and highways, but it’s not difficult to foresee a future in which most vehicles have autopilot systems. This could change the way injury victims seek compensation after car accidents, especially if autopilot failure leads to a crash.
To learn more about your legal options if you’ve been injured in a Florida auto accident, contact a knowledgeable Bradenton personal injury lawyer with Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh.