Automated driving Gone Wrong

Tesla has become one of the most popular car companies in the world. Consumers wait a month or more in order to receive their newest model. The latest and more affordable Model 3’s starting price is around #35,000 and requires consumers to put down a deposit. Tesla is popular for its fuel efficiency, luxury appearance, and now its automated driving technology. Unfortunately, there have been some issues with the safety of this new technology. Four fatalities have been recorded involving the “advanced driver- assistance system” (aka autopilot) feature in the Tesla. In 2016, two people were killed, one in Florida and one in China. In 2018, a man was killed when his Model X hit a freeway barrier in California. A more recent fatality occurred in 2019 in Florida when a Model 3 broadsided a semitruck crossing lanes, killing the driver. In all cases, the autopilot feature was engaged. Experts say the system has difficulty determining the danger of detected objects and distinguishing between freeway signs, parked cars, and the swift lane changes of other drivers. Updated software sends additional warnings to drivers and will disable the autopilot if the driver ignores the warnings. Further improvements include a reliance on radar sensors rather than cameras for sensing danger. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said the car has an automatic emergency breaking system that is designed to slow or stop before a collision. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk and his team have made improvements to the autopilot function in response to these fatal accidents. The cars will rely heavily on radar and be more reliable than cameras when visibility is hindered from weather.


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1). Although, there have been multiple fatal accidents when the autopilot function was being used, do you feel like Tesla will continue to be successful with new technology capabilities?

2). Even if the new radar system is much more reliable and safe, would you feel comfortable using the autopilot function? Why or why not?

3). Do you believe car companies need more efficient safety testing? Explain your response.

4). Do you think there is a price to pay for technological advances with regret to safety? Why or why not?


NTSB: Tesla driver killed in Florida crash had Autopilot engaged – Silicon Valley Business Journal (
(Links to an external site.)

The Bizarre But True Story of “The Killer Grannies of Santa Monica” – The 13th Floor
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