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Industry Insider: Tesla’s Autopilot is Being Investigated Over Rider Fatalities

In the wake of motorcycle safety being reported at an all-time low, we’ve covered quite a bit about what safe riding means for the two-wheeled industry.

Back in February, The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) hashed out a huge meet with the U.S. D.O.T. Secretary and other gov’t department staff on the concerns of autonomous driving.

These concerns are a part of the latter of two different schools of thought:

  1. That today’s roads aren’t yet ready for automated driving
  2. That today’s roads are ready for automated driving, provided technology can create safety precautions that outweigh the dangers of autopilot malfunctions for all on the road

In the latter party sits Honda, who has released the World’s First “Intelligent Driver-Assistive Technology” with plans to show off zero fatalities by 2050, alongside other bike brands with similar goals.

Automotive company Tesla’s also in the latter category, and her machines are out and about on today’s roads with their own Autopilot systems – systems that are being called into question, and with good reason. 

The inside of a Tesla, with a motorcyclist about to change lanes. Media sourced from VisorDown.
The inside of a Tesla, with a motorcyclist about to change lanes. Media sourced from VisorDown.

According to ABCNews, the NHSTA is currently investigating two crashes involving Teslas and motorcyclists. In both situations, the riders were killed.

Concern as to the ‘auto’ state of Tesla’s Autopilot system has resulted in NHSTA’s teams being dispatched to look into the potential hazard. 

A Tesla against proof that NHSTA has taken up a report against the company. Media sourced from InsideEvs.
A Tesla against proof that NHSTA has taken up a report against the company. Media sourced from InsideEvs.

“The agency suspects that Tesla’s partially automated driver-assist system was in use in each,” states the report. 

“The first crash…a white Tesla Model Y SUV was traveling east in the high occupancy vehicle lane. Ahead of it was a rider on a green Yamaha V-Star motorcycle…”

“At some point, the vehicles collided, and the unidentified motorcyclist was ejected from the Yamaha. He was pronounced dead at the scene…whether or not the Tesla was operating on Autopilot remains under investigation.”

A Tesla filling up>. Media sourced from ETAuto.
A Tesla filling up>. Media sourced from ETAuto.

The accidents have purportedly been added by the NHSTA to a thick file folder that includes ‘over 750 complaints that Teslas can brake for no reason,’ as well as issues with ‘Teslas striking emergency vehicles parked along freeways.’ 

A Tesla striking an emergency vehicle while on AutoPilot. Media sourced from Forbes.
A Tesla striking an emergency vehicle while on AutoPilot. Media sourced from Forbes.

“The second crash …a Tesla Model 3 sedan was behind a Harley-Davidson motorcycle…the driver of the Tesla did not see the motorcyclist and collided with the back of the motorcycle, which threw the rider from the bike…Landon Embry, 34, of Orem, Utah, died at the scene.”

“The Tesla driver told authorities that he had the vehicle’s Autopilot setting on.”

A Tesla's range of view when in Autopilot. Media sourced from Ars Technica.
A Tesla’s range of view when in Autopilot. Media sourced from Ars Technica.

In reaction to the mayhem, the acting Executive Director of the Nonprofit Center for Auto Safety has requested NHSTA to recall Tesla’s Autopilot. 

“It is not recognizing motorcyclists, emergency vehicles, or pedestrians.”

“It’s pretty clear to me (and it should be to a lot of Tesla owners by now), this stuff isn’t working properly, and it’s not going to live up to the expectations, and it is putting innocent people in danger on the roads,” Brooks adds.

Logos of NHSTA and Tesla, in connection with recent Tesla-related accidents. Media sourced from Auto News.
Logos of NHSTA and Tesla, in connection with recent Tesla-related accidents. Media sourced from Auto News.

So how safe are Teslas?

The Department of Transportation on NYTimes states that Tesla Autopilot systems are considered to be twice as safe when used on the highway, with the statistics for Tesla accidents sitting a decent percentage (when in the general collisions category), with the maker herself stating that ‘one accident [happens] for every 2.42 million miles driven.’

Since both the above accidents happened on highways (Interstate 15 near Draper and State Route 91 in Riverside, respectively), the concern will be at the top of NHSTA’s docket for the coming season.

A large Tesla logo on a building dedicated to the same company. Media sourced from Auto News.
A large Tesla logo on a building dedicated to the same company. Media sourced from Auto News.

We will keep you up-to-date on the results of NHSTA’s investigation as the information comes down the pipeline; for other related news, be sure to check back at our shiny new webpage, and stay informed by subscribing to our newsletter.

Which school of thought do you best identify with?

Drop a comment below (we love hearing from you), and as ever – stay safe on the twisties. 

*Media sourced from InsideEVs, ETAuto, Forbes, Ars Technica, and Automotive News*

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