Regular readers of our Raleigh personal injury law blog might well recall a post we published in June about self-driving vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had issued a study that found that despite lofty industry promises of a future nearly free of all motor vehicle crashes, autonomous vehicles will prevent only a third of all traffic accidents.
The recent news of a crash about 45 miles northeast of Raleigh will for many cast more serious doubts on the safety of self-driving cars.
According to the News & Observer, a Raleigh man driving a Tesla was using the vehicle’s Autopilot system while watching a movie on his phone as his vehicle sped along on U.S. 64 west. The movie came to an abrupt end when the Tesla Model S crashed into a Nash County Sheriff’s Office deputy’s patrol car.
The collision was about 13 miles outside of Nashville, near the boundary line of Nash and Franklin counties.
The newspaper did not mention any injuries in the crash.
According to the Tesla website, “Autopilot enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane.” The automaker also cautions drivers that the feature “require(s) active driver supervision” and doesn’t “make the vehicle autonomous.”
A recent study of advanced safety systems that include features such as automatic braking and lane-maintenance assistance found that the systems are often ineffective and regularly require drivers to take control of the vehicle in order to avoid crashes.
The Tesla driver and those he was sharing the road with are fortunate that this crash wasn’t far worse, as photos of the wreckage make clear. Let’s hope news of this preventable wreck serves as a wake-up call to other drivers of similarly equipped vehicles.