Several major car companies are rapidly developing autonomous automobiles so you can safely text, “Hey, what up” while flying down the interstate at 80mph. Tesla has been ahead of everyone with this technology for some time. Right now, your Model S has a feature called “summon.” Say it’s pouring down rain and your Tesla is parked way out in the last parking space at the mall and there you are, without an umbrella. All you have to do is open the app on your smart phone or watch as the car slowly and safely comes to you, all the while the dry driver quietly laughs to themselves at all of the peasants running at top speed to get to their regular car that requires an actual person to make it go.
Tesla also has a self-drive feature called Auto-Pilot that the company says had a perfect safety record with over 130 million miles without a fatality, until May 7th when a man using Auto-Pilot was killed near Williston, FL. He was driving on a divided highway when an 18-wheeler made a left turn in front of him. Apparently, the car was unable to detect the truck because it confused the bright sky with the white trailer on the truck, leading to the fatal accident. According to the accident report, neither vehicle hit the brakes. Tesla says that when the car is in “assist feature” the driver should still “maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.” The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the accident and Tesla is fully cooperating with them, but one thing is for sure: Self-driving cars are never going to be perfect, but someday we are all going to be faced with the prospect of giving up control and the freedom that comes with driving.
The question now is how big of a setback will this accident this be not only for Tesla but for the entire automobile industry?
Erica Habedank | WTOG-CW44/CBS Tampa Bay