Aside from the tragic fatal accident in a Tesla Model S on Autopilot in May, almost every driver involved and the subsequent accidents on Autopilot admitted that they were not paying attention or were not ready to take over control at the time of the crash when using Tesla’s advanced driver assist features.
The driver in the recent fender-bender in China admitted that he was looking at his phone during the crash and now we learn of another accident, which happened in Texas earlier this month, and the driver says that he reached into his glovebox and was cleaning his dash during the crash.
Mark Molthan, a luxury home builder and the owner of both a Model S and Model X, was driving his Model S on Autopilot on Highway 175 in Kaufman, Texas, on August 7 when his vehicle veered off the lane on a curve and hit a guardrail.
Molthan told Bloomberg:
“I used Autopilot all the time on that stretch of the highway,” Molthan, 44, said in a phone interview. “But now I feel like this is extremely dangerous. It gives you a false sense of security. I’m not ready to be a test pilot. It missed the curve and drove straight into the guardrail. The car didn’t stop — it actually continued to accelerate after the first impact into the guardrail.”
His airbag deployed and he ended up with a bloody nose, but otherwise he is OK. The vehicle is a total loss – pictured above.
He admitted that he took a cloth from his glove box and was cleaning the dash moments before the crash.
Tesla is always quick to remind drivers that they need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and to be ready to take over control at all time, but this “false sense of security” argument keeps coming back.
It’s not really a “false sense” of security per se. By reducing the driver’s workload, the Autopilot actually becomes more secure than a driver alone, but that’s only if the driver stays vigilant. Otherwise, it negates any advantage of the Autopilot.
It boils down to determining if the risks associated with people not using the feature properly are greater than the safety benefits (convenience is only a bonus) from people using the feature properly.
Bloomberg reports that Molthan’s auto-insurance carrier hired a law firm and could decide to sue Tesla to pay for the insurance claim.
We contacted Tesla for a comment on the accident and we will update if we get an answer.