Fatal Tesla Crash Raises Questions about Autopilot Feature | Ellis Injury Law

Fatal Tesla Crash Raises Questions about Autopilot Feature

firefighter with car accident victim

July 11, 2016

Ellis Law Corporation


Tesla’s ambitious efforts to corner the autopilot market may have backfired in May, when the vehicle was involved in a fatal crash in Florida. The driver of the Tesla was killed after the vehicle failed to stop when a tractor-trailer turned in front of it in Florida. An investigation quickly ensued to determine liability in the crash – whether the cause was driver error or failure of the vehicle to detect danger and adjust accordingly.

According to Tesla, the autopilot sensors on the vehicle failed to detect the large white tractor-trailer against a bright Florida sky as it turned left in front of the Tesla. The car was in autopilot mode at the time of the crash and neither the car nor the driver applied the brakes prior to the collision.

Florida Highway Patrol identified the driver of the vehicle as Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio. Brown died as a result of the crash.

Safety concerns loom around self-driving vehicles

Tesla has secured a top spot in the automotive tech industry by promising the self-driving Tesla can protect drivers from accidents caused by human error. The company has been more aggressive than its competitors, such as Google and Zoox, introducing their cars to the roadways before the other companies felt their vehicles were ready for such a test.

Those competitors have stated concerns over the idea that drivers may rely on the car’s own reaction to situations, rather than depending on their own discernment to evaluate a potentially hazardous situation and act accordingly. The idea of a self-driving vehicle could lull drivers into a false sense of security, making them feel more like a passenger than an operator of the vehicle.

When an urgent situation arises that requires fast response like braking, the driver may not be prepared to act quickly enough to prevent an accident.

Accident liability

If an accident does occur, like the one in May, questions regarding liability arise. Some are suggesting the software wasn’t quite ready to take the vehicle to the streets. The fact that other companies have withheld introducing their technology at this point could leave Tesla vulnerable to liability disputes.

According to a news story in Fortune this week, Germany’s Federal Office for Motor Vehicles has stated it would not have approved the autopilot system because the system is still in beta-phase version. Beta-phase indicates the system still requires some corrections before it is ready for full usability.

Investigations underway

Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are conducting their own investigations of the May Tesla crash. Brown’s family has declined to say whether legal action will be taken against Tesla at this time as they wait to hear the results of the investigations.

If you are involved in a car accident involving a Tesla or any other vehicle, you may be eligible for compensation. However, it is important to seek out a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible, since the statute of limitations governing these situations may require timely action. The sooner you file a lawsuit with a personal injury attorney, the sooner you can also expect to receive compensation for your injuries, medical bills and other economic and non-economic losses.

Ellis Law firm offers sound legal guidance to victims of motor vehicle accidents and their families. To schedule a free case review with one of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers, contact Ellis Law at 310-641-3335.