For a long time now, cars have come equipped with cruise control that helps to maintain safe speeds and cut down on gas costs on long trips. Recently, the car manufacturer Tesla released a series of its space-age electronic vehicles that have a feature called autopilot. Unfortunately, autopilot failures are now a primary concern for many people.
What Is Autopilot?
Too many people who buy the new Tesla cars think that they can just put their destination into a GPS and autopilot will get them there. That misconception cost one Ohio man his life in a Florida accident in May 2016 and got another family injured when its Tesla flipped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
In the case of the Ohio man, there is some evidence to suggest that the driver was watching a movie right before the fatal accident occurred. Should accident liability fall on Tesla? That really depends on who you talk to.
Getting To Grips With The User’s Manual Before Driving
When was the last time you read the user’s manual for a car you just bought? According to The Guardian, most people do not bother reading user’s manuals despite the fact that cars are getting more complicated. The problem is that if you don’t read the user’s manual for your new Tesla, then you may be flirting with a fatal accident.
A CNN review of a Tesla automobile and found that, while the feature in Tesla vehicles is called autopilot, it is anything but what it claims to be. Then again, the manual offers a long list of warnings about the autopilot feature that make it nothing more than glorified cruise control. According to the Tesla user’s manual, a driver should never take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road when using the autopilot feature. To a lot of Tesla buyers and government officials, that does not sound like autopilot at all.
Is Tesla Liable?
The fatal accident in Florida and the flipped car in Pennsylvania are still relatively new cases that are being investigated by Tesla and the federal government. At this point, accident liability is not pointing at Tesla. But how could that be?
Tesla does not show a lot of faith in its autopilot feature by the way the feature is presented in its user’s manual, and the way in which the feature is engaged by the driver. Before the driver can engage the autopilot, they must press a button that says that they understand that autopilot is still a test program and that Tesla is not liable for any injuries or property damage due to the use of the autopilot.
Tesla has been having financial problems since it started. At first, the company could not sell vehicles because consumers were skeptical and the prices were so high. But lately, Tesla has seen sales pick up due to some stellar marketing programs that include hyping the autopilot feature. But if the feature does not do what the name implies and it is still not perfected, then why is Telsa putting it in the hands of drivers?
Suing The Manufacturer
The family of the Florida victim who hit a tractor trailer while driving his Tesla is unsure if they are going to sue the company. But the truck driver might if it turns out that he sustained long-term injuries as a result of the accident. This raises the question of which party can sue Tesla for these autopilot accidents.
The disclaimer Tesla has about drivers acknowledgment before they use autopilot; could absolve Tesla of all accident liability in both of these cases. However, if it can be proven in either accident that the autopilot feature failed to do what it was meant to do, then Tesla could be liable in both cases.
Sometimes space-age features on cars are not the best toys for people to play with. If you buy a car made by a very modern manufacturer but you cannot use one of the most hyped features without first absolving the company of liability, then that creates a very difficult situation.
It is the driver’s responsibility to know how to maintain control over their vehicle and understand the features being used. However, it is also the responsibility of a car manufacturer to make sure that their new features do what they say they will do, and not just what drivers hope they will do. Is Tesla being irresponsible in its marketing of its autopilot feature? There may be enough lawsuits coming up based on incidents involving this feature that we may get the answer to that question sooner rather than later.