Although autonomous driving was basically a solved problem for Elon Musk since June 2016 – when he said so – the truth is that no vehicle currently for sale can drive itself. It does not matter: there will always be someone willing to prove that’s not true with their own lives. The latest example came from Glendale, California, where a woman was arrested in the middle of the Ventura Freeway, a portion of the SR 134. Unconcious behind the steering wheel, she had her car on Autopilot.
ABC7 informed that her car hit a roadside wall at around 11 PM on September 16 and kept going. The CHP (California Highway Patrol) then started following the EV and realized what we have just described above. A CHP patrol car entered in front of it and started slowing down, bringing the Model 3 to a stop at the transition to the 5 Freeway.
The woman behind the steering wheel was then arrested and charged with a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) offense. The police did not reveal her identity so far, but she’s not the only one in trouble due to this situation: Tesla also is.
NHTSA is currently investigating the company for 11 crashes of its cars on Autopilot against emergency vehicles. Shortly after the probe started, another Tesla crashed against an FHP (Florida Highway Patrol) Orlando car. In Norway, a Tesla Model S stopped right in the left lane of a busy road. It took Autopilot 10 kilometers to detect that the driver was incapacitated.
In a recent article, Jason Torchinsky tested for Jalopnik something he heard multiple times about Autopilot: that the car would go to the right and pull over on its own. The vehicle just stopped right where it was in his tests, as the Model S did in Norway.
Autopilot advocates will claim that this is the safest thing the system can do, thinking only about the Tesla occupants. What they miss is that all other vehicles on the same road are in great danger: having a 2-ton EV parked in a fast lane may cause a massive pile-up.
That said, whenever someone claims this episode proves Autopilot saves lives, don’t miss the opportunity to stress the truth about this. Who actually avoided the worts, in this case, was the CHP by managing to safely stop a rogue vehicle. The fact that it was being controlled by a beta software that people think makes their cars autonomous only makes things harder for Tesla.