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Death by Autopilot: How Much is Human Error?

An owner of a Tesla car died in May while riding in his car on autopilot.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent his condolences over Twitter to the man and his family. But a tweet cannot fix this tragic accident.

The world is undergoing developments that are incomparable to anything society has ever seen before. Advances come faster these days than ever before in human history. All this fresh technology aims to make life easier for us. But with this luxury comes some uncomfortable disadvantages.

Autopilot is a feature that car enterprises like Tesla are starting to incorporate into their vehicles. It helps automatically change lanes and evidently stops the car before any kind of accident can happen. These features are specifically designed to help prevent accidents.  A great thing indeed!

What are people worried about?

Apparently the crash, which occurred in a Model S, is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla discussed the accident on their website which stated that anyone driving in autopilot should still be paying attention.

According to Tesla, “every time that Autopilot is engaged, the car reminds the driver to “always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.” The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected.

At the time of the accident, neither the driver nor the autopilot noticed the truck the car hit. Unfortunately, the driver was killed on impact. After incidents like these, one wonders if the benefits of driving on autopilot outweigh the risk of a serious accident.

According to the BBC, Tesla’s shares dropped by 3% after the incident.

Will autonomous advances like autopilot continue to grace our roads?

According to, 81% of car crashes are caused by human error. In comparison to humans, computers are actually a lot faster at calculating a potential accident. They can determine certain statistics that our brains cannot, such as the exact measurements of a safe distance. Apart from safety, autopilot can significantly help disabled people who can’t drive and give drivers more time to do other things in a more secure way.

However, this autopilot feature is expensive to run and only certain individuals will be able to afford it. But apart from the price, driving a car in autopilot is risky.  Many persons are worried about handing their life over to a computer. It is unclear how self-driving cars can navigate through roadblocks and malfunctions may occur.

Whatever the end result is, one must consider the pros and cons of the autopilot software.

Technology is growing at an excessive speed. The future we once envisioned in sitcoms such as “The Jetsons” is suddenly becoming a reality. A self-driving car is an unbelievable technological advancement. However, car companies like Tesla have to be prepared for an event like the one mentioned above.

Does this change things for auto accident victims?

Certainly this changes things for auto accident attorneys, as new laws come into our lexicon dealing with autopilot. But for now, a victim’s first step after receiving medical care should still be to contact a personal injury attorney.

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