The Data Shows That “Autopilot Mode” Is Dangerous and Deadly

Dangers of Autopilot Mode

Modern technology has undeniably transformed our lives, offering unprecedented convenience and benefits that were once the stuff of science fiction. One of the most remarkable technological advancements in recent years has been the development of autonomous features in cars, particularly autopilot modes. These systems have the potential to revolutionize the way we commute, promising enhanced safety and convenience. However, as with any emerging technology, there's a critical need for rigorous testing and safety measures as their incorrect deployment can lead to dangerous and even fatal fatal consequences.

A comprehensive analysis conducted by The Washington Post revealed a troubling trend associated with vehicles utilizing Autopilot technology. Since its inception in 2014, Autopilot-assisted vehicles have been involved in over 700 accidents, with at least 19 of these incidents resulting in fatalities, including the 2019 death of Jeremy Banner. Banner, the Post reported, “flicked on Autopilot [while driving]... down the highway at nearly 70 mph, his hands no longer detected on the wheel. Seconds later, the Tesla plowed into a semi-truck, shearing off its roof as it slid under the truck’s trailer. Banner was killed on impact.”

The investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified multiple factors contributing to the accident, including Banner's inattentiveness and the truck driver's failure to yield completely to oncoming traffic. However, the NTSB also highlighted an important aspect: Banner's "overreliance on automation." The NTSB's report emphasized that Tesla's design allowed for driver disengagement, which, in this case, played a role in the tragic outcome of the collision.

According to the Post, “in its response to the Banner family’s complaint, Tesla said, ‘The record does not reveal anything that went awry with Mr. Banner’s vehicle, except that it, like all other automotive vehicles, was susceptible to crashing into another vehicle when that other vehicle suddenly drives directly across its path.’”

Except this does not appear to be the case. The Post recreated the accident using information supplied by the NTSB as well as “hundreds of court documents, dash cam photos and a video of the crash taken from a nearby farm, [and] satellite imagery,” and based on its findings, Banner’s crash may have been avoidable. Per the Post, the Tesla captured the image of the truck about two seconds before impact, which was enough time to apply the brakes. Had it done so, Banner might still be alive.

“Autopilot” is a misnomer

According to Tesla’s website, “Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Tesla, it seems, is admitting the name of their system is disingenuous. When most people think of Autopilot, they might think of movies or TV shows where an airline pilot flips on the autopilot mode, and it seemingly allows them to get up and move away from the controls of the plane, leaving it to fly itself. Is it any wonder why we might consider the same to be true of our vehicles with Autopilot capabilities? Tesla wants to be the name of the future, the brand that represents cutting edge autonomous driving technology. Including modes with these names is their way of getting their cars out there to the public. We are the ones to suffer from being duped into thinking these cars can actually drive themselves.

How can a Maryland injury attorney help you?

If you or a loved one is injured in a collision with a Tesla on Autopilot, the best thing you can do is contact an attorney as soon as possible. The laws and regulations around self-driving vehicles are far behind the reality of what's possible on the roads. The technology simply moves too fast. As such, you’re going to want someone from Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. who can work within the existing laws to ensure you get the justice you deserve. We have been helping car accidents victims in Maryland for 35 years; we know what the laws say, and how to present a case.

In a case involving Autopilot, that means first determining who all the potentially liable parties are. Multiple parties can share liability in a vehicle crash, and we want to name all of them in your lawsuit. Typically, the driver would be named, but other third-parties – including Tesla itself – could also share some blame.

It also means building a strong argument that you were not at fault for the crash or your ensuing injuries. Because Maryland follows the theory of contributory negligence, you could be barred from recovering compensation if you are found at fault in any way, or to any degree. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will have a team of lawyers ready to deflect blame; you can level the playing field by having a lawyer of your own.

Finally, you want an attorney who recognizes the true extent of your injuries and losses, and can present them clearly and definitively. Our Maryland trial lawyers have years of experience working with medical experts and can help a jury understand just how severe your injuries are. For example, an insurance company may try to pass off a concussion as a “mild” brain injury, one that heals on its own. But our experience has taught us that some concussions have lasting repercussions, like dizziness, blurred vision, and memory loss. When your injury is even more catastrophic – a severe TBI, spinal cord damage, and permanent scarring or disfigurement – our lawyers can help a jury understand just what your future will look like, and how it could be vastly different than the one you planned.

If you are injured by a Tesla or any vehicle, especially if any of the autonomous driving modes of the vehicle were engaged, then you should contact an experienced car accident attorney. At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A., we fight for your right to compensation, especially when your injuries or the death of a loved one was caused by someone else’s negligence. That not only includes negligent drivers, but negligent companies. To schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call us at one of our many offices throughout Maryland, or use our contact form. Let us help you.