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Tesla’s Autopilot just saved someone’s life

Published Jul 21st, 2016 10:27AM EDT
Tesla Autopilot Crash Avoidance

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Tesla’s advanced Autopilot system has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Ever since news broke that Autopilot was enabled on a Model S at the time of a fatal crash, it seems like drivers try to blame Autopilot every time a Tesla gets into an accident. Of course, Tesla’s cars have a complex logging system that can easily determine whether or not Autopilot was enabled at the time of an incident. As a result, the company is often quick to respond when public accusations are made.

But today, Autopilot is finally back in the news for a good reason instead of a bad one. According to a story shared by a Model S owner and verified by Tesla, the Autonomous features in a Model S likely saved someone’s life.

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According to Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, claims made recently by a Model S owner have been verified by an analysis of his car’s logs. The owner, who has been identified only by his first name “Larry,” was driving last week in Washington DC with his daughter in the car when his Model S’s collision prevention feature stopped his car from hitting a pedestrian.

It’s unclear how fast the car was traveling at the time or whether or not the pedestrian would indeed have been killed by the impact. Also unclear is whether or not Autopilot was actually engaged at the time of the incident. The driver mentions the feature in his note, however the collision avoidance features that would have prevented this accident are enabled whether or not Autopilot is active.

What is clear, however, is that Tesla’s advanced safety features prevented a serious accident at best. At worst, they saved a life and prevented at least two more people from being traumatized.

Here is the full text from the man’s email, as tweeted by Elon Musk:


I wanted to let you know that I think my car probably saved the life of a pedestrian last night, 7/16 around 10:30pm when I was driving in Washington DC with my daughter. I was on New York Ave and it was night time, there was a lot of glare from the headlights of oncoming cars, and there was a siren in the distance. We were having trouble figuring out if the siren was coming from behind us or from one of the side roads when a pedestrian stepped out in front of our Model S in the dark with dark clothes and in the middle of the road (not near an intersection).

Before I could step on the brakes the beeped (collision warnings) and the picture of a red car came up on my dash. The car slammed on the breaks before I could and we stopped just inches from hitting the pedestrian. I guess that the car thought the pedestrian was another car in front of us? I am not sure if I would have been able to stop before hitting him but I am so glad the car did. I am not sure if the event is recorded in the cars sensor logs.

At a time when there are so many negative stories about Autopilot and the death that occurred a few weeks ago, I thought that it was important to let you all know about this story. The work that you are all doing is really important and is saving lives. Unfortunately, incidents like this one don’t get written about in the press and most of the time no one is ever aware of how many accidents your safety features may have prevented. Thanks and thanks for letting customers use Autopilot even though it is in beta.


Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.

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