On the heels of questions over the safety of Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature after Joshua Brown was tragically killed in his Model S, the Autopilot has managed to redeem itself by proving that it can, indeed, save lives. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into the overall safety of Tesla’s Autopilot feature after Brown’s death sparked many questions over the product’s safety, it ultimately concluded that the industry “cannot wait for perfect,” and that the Florida crash should not undermine efforts to develop and release technology that may make roads safer. Between the NHTSA’s conclusion and this latest development, many drivers’ fears over the safety of Autopilot features has been effectively appeased.
Autopilot Navigates Driver to Hospital
In late July, Joshua Neally, a 37-year-old lawyer from Missouri, was driving home from work in his Tesla Model X. Once on the highway, Neally turned on Autopilot and allowed the car to brake, accelerate, and steer for him. He was about five miles from Springfield, Missouri when he suddenly felt something like a “steel pole” through his chest. The pain worsened, and after a conversation with his wife through gasps, he decided to go to the emergency room. Traffic was backing up as cars merged onto the set of interchanges, and Neally opted to remain in the car and drive to the closest emergency room, over 20 miles away, rather than stopping and waiting for an ambulance. The Model X drove the 20 miles to a hospital just off of an exit ramp in Branson, and Neally steered the car the final few moments before checking himself into the emergency room. Doctors were able to treat Neally for what turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, an often-fatal obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs. Doctors sent him home the same night, though they said he was lucky to be alive.
Did Autopilot Actually Save Neally’s Life?
Neally himself wonders whether he made the right decision. Looking back, he says, it may have been wiser to pull over and call 9-1-1. Still, he believes he may have reached the hospital faster thanks to Autopilot, which is crucial, as pulmonary embolisms cause death within an hour in 70 percent of cases. He also wondered whether he could have lost control of the car when his painful symptoms first affected him, causing an accident or further injury to himself.
As far as overall safety of the car, Neally maintained that he was not a daredevil driver intending on testing the features of Autopilot to the absolute limit, unlike Brown, who died in the Florida crash earlier this year. Neally did not drive hands-free or watch movies while driving, although he admitted to occasionally engaging in other distracting activities like checking email or text messages. In an unusual case where Neally needed help in getting to the hospital, autopilot came through and was able to navigate entirely for him. In most cases, however, it still behooves a driver to remain alert at all times and refrain from engaging in activities that would cause distraction behind the wheel, just in case autopilot features malfunction or do not work perfectly every time.
More Questions on Product Safety?
If you or a loved one is dealing with the aftermath of an auto accident in Central and North Florida, let lawyer John Piccin at the Piccin & Glynn help. He has handled hundreds of auto accident cases and is prepared to answer your questions, negotiate with insurance companies, and even make home or hospital visits to ensure you get the support you need. Call John at 352-558-8480 or contact us online today.