Another Tesla has crashed while reportedly in Autopilot, this time in Montana. Even though there are car crashes every day, this is still a big deal. The details are concerning, especially since the Model X drove off the road for 200 feet, through a guardrail, and back onto the road, reportedly because Autopilot didn’t detect some wood stakes apparently on the road.
Elon Musk has almost gone nuclear on Twitter about the criticisms of Autopilot. He even blocked Fortune magazine’s account, accusing it of being part of a Koch-led conspiracy. To be fair, human drivers constantly make stupid mistakes.
Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, but this latest accident points out another possible vulnerability of the beta technology. Some are wondering if the driver was even paying attention, something Tesla warns about when Autopilot’s engaged. Tesla told the Wall Street Journal that data is showing the driver’s hands were off the steering wheel, contrary to the company’s warnings.
Anyone who’s driven in rural Montana knows the roads meander a lot, there’s no center divider, plus lane lines aren’t exactly kept in pristine condition. It’s not really ideal for using Autopilot.
This yet again highlights the concerns Volvo and others have with anything less than Level 4 autonomous vehicle tech. Drivers place too much confidence in a system that isn’t equipped to handle every situation, and it can turn out to be a real mess. At least this time nobody was killed, but it could turn out far different with the next Autopilot crash.