Published on October 29th, 2020 | by Bibhuranjan


Is Tesla’s Autopilot System Increasing RTCs?

It is becoming more and more common to see a Tesla on the road and these are certainly vehicles that appeal to many due to the incredible technology within along with the modern, sleek design and powerful performance. While there are many great things about these futuristic vehicles, it is important to be aware of the autopilot system as many motorists are using this incorrectly which is incredibly dangerous.

The Autopilot System

In fact, an Apple employee died in an automobile crash in 2018 when his Tesla hit a concrete barrier while he was using the autopilot system. Investigators believe that he was actually playing a video game at the time of the crash despite the fact that Tesla instructs drivers to keep two hands on the wheel in Autopilot mode. The crash also caused two other motorists to crash which goes to show that it is not just drivers endangering themselves when the system is misused. The 38-year-old driver, Walter Huang, was initially taken to hospital but later died of his injuries while the other two motorists survived.

More Crashes Likely

The US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) believes that more crashes will happen unless Tesla makes changes to its Autopilot system with many people unaware of the rules surrounding having both hands on the wheel. The NTSB stated that the system was not designed to detect the barrier and that the system did not provide an effective means of monitoring the driver’s engagement. This is not the only accident that has occurred due to Tesla’s Autopilot software so it is not an anomaly and action clearly needs to be taken to promote safety.

Not Fully Autonomous

It is important to note that Tesla’s system is only semi-autonomous with many motorists thinking that the “Autopilot” branding means that the car is capable of driving itself entirely. While the system is capable of changing lanes and adjusting speed, it is not a fully autonomous system which motorists need to be aware of.

Tesla’s Warning Not Enough

Tesla does instruct motorists to always have two-hands on the system with an audible warning sound in place, but the NTSB states that “monitoring of driver-applied steering wheel torque is an ineffective surrogate measure of driver engagement”. “If Tesla does not incorporate system safeguards that limit the use of the Autopilot system to those conditions for which it was designed, continued use of the system beyond its operational design domain is foreseeable and the risk for future crashes will remain”.

Danger to Motorists

Obviously, this is incredibly dangerous because it leads motorists to be over-reliant on the software and, with more of these cars on the roads, it greatly increases the chance of road traffic accidents occurring. This is a concern for all motorists on the road and could lead to a significant increase in serious accidents, injuries and even fatalities. This will also see a sharp rose in road traffic accident claims with motorists looking to seek compensation for being involved in an accident that was not their fault unless something is changed and fast.


So, what could be changed to improve safety on the roads? The NTSB advised that Tesla improve the collision avoidance system to include common obstacles (such as barriers), prevent automation complacency in drivers and evaluate the system to determine whether the ability to operate it outside the intended operational design poses a threat to safety. They also suggested that a driver monitoring system is implemented for all new passenger vehicles with semi-autonomous features that meet new standards.

The NTSB also stated that smartphone manufacturers could help by developing “distracted driving lockout mechanisms” which would stop smartphones from being used while a vehicle is in motion (except for emergencies). They also urged Apple to implement a company policy to ban non-emergency use of electronic devices while driving to stop a similar incident from happening again.

Motorists Need to Exercise Caution

It is clear that more needs to be done in terms of creating a safe system for motorists to use but motorists also need to be aware of exactly how these systems work and what their limitations are. There have been many great developments in recent times but motorists still need to be careful and safe while operating a vehicle whether it is semi-autonomous or even fully autonomous.

Car technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent times with Tesla at the forefront of this. While there have been some remarkable developments so far, it is still important that motorists are aware of the limitations and still drive safely when behind the wheel even of a Tesla. The technology is not perfect and it is still a way off before completely driverless vehicles will be common on the roads, so safety and paying attention must still be a priority.

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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