Self-driving cars have been the dream of many an auto manufacturer. While we’re not quite there yet, one automaker has made great strides in automation when it comes to driving. Tesla, who touts that its “autopilot” feature can take some of the driving responsibility out of human hands, has come under scrutiny recently. Many drivers who have been involved in accidents cited that they believed the vehicle’s “autopilot” feature meant that the car would drive itself. However, Tesla maintains that all drivers should always remain in control of the vehicles. Despite this, several recent fatal crashes are calling the system into question, as Reuters reports.
In a fatal accident that happened on March 1st in Delray Beach, the autopilot system of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 was engaged. It is at least the third fatal crash in the United States that has been reported to involve the driver-assistance system.
According to the National Traffic Safety Bureau’s preliminary report, the driver only engaged the autopilot system about 10 seconds prior to crashing into the tractor-trailer. The system did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel for fewer than 8 seconds prior to the crash.
The crash sheared off the roof of the vehicle as the Tesla traveled under the tractor trailer.
The driver was going about 68-m.p.h. on a highway with a 55-m.p.h. speed limit. Neither the autopilot system nor the driver made any evasive maneuvers to try and avoid the collision.
While some drivers say that they are able to let go of the steering wheel for an extended amount of time with autopilot engaged, Tesla urges drivers to remain in contact with the steering wheel at all times.
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is probing several accidents involving Tesla vehicles and the autopilot system. The NHTSA has the ability to demand recalls if they feel that a vehicle or its systems are defective.