Two recent fatal car accidents involving Tesla vehicles in Florida have caught the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency has reported that a Model S crashed and burst into flames in early March, and a Model 3 drove into a semi-trailer only days before. To determine if the self-driving vehicles were to blame for the fatal accidents, or if a substantial amount of human error was the cause, the NHTSA has officially announced its investigation into both accidents.
In the Model S accident, the vehicle burst into flames after a collision and the retractable handles did not extend, preventing rescuers from opening the doors and extracting the driver. The vehicle caught fire a second time as it was being towed. This secondary ignition of the battery-engine is quite common among serious Tesla crashes.
In the Model 3 accident, a man in Palm Beach County was killed when the vehicle swerved underneath a big rig, shearing the top of the smaller vehicle. However, authorities have not been able to confirm if autopilot mode was actually engaged at the time of this accident. Due to the unusual nature of the accident, it is suspected the autonomous systems did not detect the tractor trailer and tried to merge into the lane as if nothing was there. When Tesla vehicles were still quite new, a similar fatal Tesla-truck accident first brought worries about the vehicle’s difficulty in spotting large, white trailers when contrasted against bright skylines.
An underlying concern held by the NHTSA and other safety groups is a general misunderstanding of a Tesla’s ability to self-drive. Tesla advertises their cars as “autonomous” but the vehicles actually require drivers to stay fully alert at all times, ready to take control of the vehicle at a moment’s notice. It may be possible that drivers are not understanding the significance of their vehicles’ warnings to stay alert, and instead engage in distracting behavior behind the wheel. When the vehicle needs the driver to take immediate action to avoid a collision, the response time is too long to prevent the crash.
It is not known at this time if the NHTSA will recall Tesla vehicles due to safety concerns, though. If a recall is carried out, it would most likely be related to the secondary ignition experienced by most Tesla vehicles after a damaging collision.
You can learn more about the ongoing NHTSA investigation by clicking here and viewing a full article from Insurance Journal. If you were injured in a Tesla accident and you think the autonomous vehicle’s defects were to blame, you can call (850) 764-0383 to connect with Attorney Wes Pittman of The Pittman Firm, P.A. in Panama City. He represents clients all across Florida, seeking compensation from major insurance companies and large corporations alike on behalf of the wrongfully injured. Contact his firm now to begin.