Tesla Autopilot Accident Attorney

Tesla is moving as fast as possible toward a fully autonomous system that has real-world applications. Their Autopilot system is highly publicized not just for its current capabilities, but also for its potential in the future.

Autopilot’s Technology

Autopilot was first introduced in late 2014 for the Tesla Model S sedan. It combined intricate hardware and innovative software to achieve semi-autonomous driving abilities.

The first generation of Autopilot was built into all Tesla vehicles manufactured after September 2014, and it included the following hardware add-ons:

  • One camera mounted on the windshield
  • Forward-facing radar
  • Ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers
  • A separate onboard computer

The second generation of Autopilot, included in all vehicles manufactured after October 2016, improves the hardware:

  • 8 surround cameras capable of 360-degree viewing
  • Forward-facing radar with enhanced processing capabilities
  • 12 ultrasonic sensors, up from 2
  • An upgraded onboard computer 40x more powerful than the 1st generation computer

Although an increased number of components results in greatly improved accuracy, that also means a larger number of components which can potentially fail while driving in autonomous mode.

Autopilot Features

The two most prominent systems include:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control. The ability to follow another car and maintain a safe distance from it, speeding up and slowing down when necessary.
  • Autosteer. Also known as lane-keeping, this allows the vehicle to stay in its driving lanes. Additionally, by tapping its turn signals, a driver can allow it to safely change lanes.

These two features comprise the backbone of the Autopilot system – and are largely common safety features in luxury vehicles. However, Tesla combines these abilities with their hardware and software to create a more complete autonomous package. It also has further autonomous features, such as:

  • Autopark. Vehicles are able to park in both parallel and perpendicular spaces without human assistance.
  • Summon. A driver is able to summon a parked car from its space with the press of a button.
  • On-Ramp to Off-Ramp. The ability to safely enter and exit a freeway or highway without human intervention.

Autopilot Testing and Safety

Tesla’s Autopilot has been the subject of most public scrutiny. The most notable was an incident in May 2016 where a Tesla driver on Autopilot collided with a semi-truck on a Florida highway, resulting in his death.

An investigation of the incident by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared that there was no defect in the Autopilot system and no recall was necessary. In fact, the report stated that, since the introduction of Autosteer technology, the crash rate of Tesla vehicles dropped by nearly 40%.

Additionally, the report indicated that the semi-truck should have been visible to the Tesla for at least seven seconds prior to impact – plenty of time for the driver to disengage and take evasive measures. They concluded that semi-autonomous systems such as Autopilot still require the attention of drivers.

Tesla is collecting real-world data captured from their drivers. Even when Autopilot is not enabled, Tesla has the ability to use its vehicle’s cameras to capture images and data of roads and obstacles. To date, Tesla has gathered 1.3 billion miles of passive data from all of its vehicles, and 300 million miles of active data (Autopilot engaged). Additionally, in May of 2017, Tesla updated its Data Sharing policy to include gather video clips from Autopilot-equipped vehicles as well.

Tesla and Autopilot in the Future

Currently, purchasers of new Tesla vehicles have the option to select one of two packages: Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Capability. The former allows Autopilot in which 4 of the 8 cameras are used, while the latter allows usage of all 8 cameras.

Eventually, the Full Self-Driving Capability package will give its vehicles fully autonomous capability. Tesla expects full autonomy to be achieved by the end of 2017, but does not expect true “Level 5” autonomy to be realistically available to the public until at least 2019.
Tesla has announced plans to have a public demo of a fully autonomous vehicle near the tail end of 2017, in which a Tesla will drive from California to New York with no human intervention.

Experienced Attorneys with Valuable Self-Driving Car Knowledge

If you or a loved one has been in a serious car accident with a Tesla, the law offices of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, & Schoenberger can help. Our car injury team specializes in legal cases, and we stay up-to-date on the latest developments, statutes, rules, and regulations surrounding Tesla self-driving cars, and other vehicles with autonomous capability. We understand the technological issues and we work with other lawyers nationwide on autonomous car liability issues.

Contact us at (415) 889-2919 for a free consultation today.


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