Two men in Spring, Texas, are now dead after deciding to take Tesla’s self-driving feature for a risky test drive. For those who are unaware, Teslas have a self-driving, or auto-pilot feature. The car’s instructions still insist that this feature must only be used with an attentive driver behind the wheel and ready to take over at any moment; that is, it is meant to be an aid to a driver, rather than a replacement for one. However, these men decided to ignore the rules and see what the self-driving feature was really capable of. One man sat in the front passenger seat, and another in the backseat, with no driver in the driver’s seat. The men then programmed a destination into the GPS and turned on the self-driving feature to see what would happen. Not long into their drive, the Tesla took a corner at a high rate of speed, causing it to veer off the road and collide with a tree. It then violently burst into flames. Both men in the car were killed instantly.
Tesla Crash Complications
The Tesla fire proved to be a real challenge for firefighters to put out. Tesla’s batteries have a tendency to reignite multiple times, and the battery fires are supposed to be put out using special chemicals. However, with electric cars still being a fairly new phenomenon, many firefighters have not gotten the appropriate training and materials. While this fire should have been easy to put out quickly following the proper procedures, firefighters estimated that they had to use nearly 32,000 gallons of water over a period of several hours to get the battery fire to die down.
Could Tesla be Liable?
It seems clear that these men were not using the automobile or self-driving feature in the way in which it was intended. There have been approximately 24 Tesla self-driving accidents since the cars’ release, which is a relatively insignificant amount compared to the total amount of applicable models sold. However, this is the first known case in which no one was in the drivers’ seat. While the men were absolutely negligent, it does beg the question why there were not safeguards in place to prevent them from using the self-driving feature without a person in the drivers’ seat. As some cars will not even start if the person in the drivers’ seat is not wearing a seatbelt, it seems like a relatively easy safeguard to implement, particularly as it seems reasonable to assume that this exact outcome is quite likely, with people wanting to test a “self-driving” feature. While Tesla may not face any liability, it will be interesting to see if they add relevant safeguards to prevent this feature from being used incorrectly and in potentially fatal ways.
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