Electric vehicle leader Tesla Inc TSLA has dominated its sector and is looking to be a market leader in self-driving in the future. The company has drawn scrutiny from several government agencies over potential safety issues with its full self-driving. New accident footage may hurt the company’s progress.
What Happened: Tesla CEO Elon Musk is pushing the company forward with plans for self-driving and some believe that a future catalyst for the company could be an electric vehicle that comes standard with FSD at an attractive price point.
New footage obtained by The Intercept shows an eight car pile-up that looks to be caused by a Tesla Model S vehicle. The accident happened on Nov. 24, 2022 on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California. The video footage shows the Model S change lanes and then start braking in the far left lane suddenly.
The accident happened hours after Elon Musk announced the launch of a “self-driving” feature, according to the report.
Nine people were injured due to the accident, including a 2-year-old child, who suffered a head abrasion and bruise. The accident also led to traffic on the Bay Bridge being blocked for an hour.
The vehicle’s driver told police that he was using full self-driving on the Tesla vehicle. The full self-driving from Tesla is still in beta testing and drivers likely need to pay attention and be able to take control of the vehicle.
The accident comes as numerous cases of “phantom braking” have been reported by Tesla vehicle drivers using full self-driving.
According to The Intercept report, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows Tesla vehicles using “Autopilot” assistance under the full self-driving mode have been involved in 273 accidents between July 2021 and June 2022.
Tesla vehicles were involved in 70% of the 329 crashes that had vehicles using advanced driver assistance.
Why It’s Important: Musk called the full self-driving feature that launched on Nov. 24 a “major milestone” at the time. Over 285,000 people had the feature rolled out to them by the end of 2022.
As Tesla faces more competition in the electric vehicle market, some analysts and experts see self-driving as a major catalyst to help Tesla maintain its lead. Musk has also openly discussed the feature.
“It’s really the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money or worth basically zero,” Musk said.
The NHTSA is investigating the accident. The agency has looked into Tesla previously, and the latest investigation could be a setback to the company's progress on FSD.
The NHTSA has also investigated 35 accidents that could have featured full self-driving or Autopilot in use by Tesla. The 35 accidents had 19 fatalities.
Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has also been critical of self-driving technology.
“I keep saying this until I’m blue in the face: Anything on the market today that you can buy is a driver assistance technology, not a driver replacement technology. I don’t care what it’s called,” Buttigieg said.
A member of Congress responded to the video shared by The Intercept.
“If Tesla’s vehicles truly have ‘full self-driving capabilities,’ then how do you explain this? Our public roads shouldn’t be a test track for unproven technology. NHTSA must reign in Tesla’s hazardous advanced driving systems,” Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said.
The testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads is currently allowed with no federal restrictions. Some states have limited the use of such vehicles.
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