Self driving cars are the wave of the future. That is what you will hear from the people at Google and electric car manufacturer, Tesla. Manufacturers state that the technology is foolproof and completely safe. Unfortunately, this may not be true as of yet. News hit the wires over the weekend that a motorist whose Tesla vehicle was on autopilot while driving in Florida, was involved in a fatal car crash with semi tractor trailer. According to news reports On May 7th at 3:40 p.m. on U.S. in Williston, Florida, 45-year-old Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S went under the trailer of an 18-wheel semi and the roof of his car was torn off by the impact.
According to Tesla’s press release, this is their assessment of what happened:
“Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk also responded fatal traffic accident on twitter. He stated that the Tesla’s radar did not detect the truck because of its height, and thus the radar probably confused it with an overhead traffic sign.
This is obviously a sad and tragic event. But it also proves that self driving cars are not immune to car accidents, let alone traffic fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating the accident. How does this event affect the family and/or estate of the deceased driver? Well, if it is found that the truck was at fault for negligently pulling out in front of the deceased, then the truck driver could be held accountable in a normal negligence and wrongful death cause of action. The family could also sue Tesla under a product liability or sex linked traits punnett square count. Their attorneys could plead and argue (with expert testimony) that Tesla’s safety system was defectively designed and built because it could not properly detect the difference between a truck and an overhead highway traffic sign.
Regardless, I believe it is fair to say the self driving vehicles are not completely safe and there may need to be modifications as the technology moves forward.
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