General, Research, Technology

Tesla's autopilot is to blame for the deaths of two people: is it true or not?

In April 2021 in the US state of Texasthere was a terrible accident. A Tesla car with two passengers flew off the highway at high speed, crashed into a tree and began to burn. It took the firefighters 4 hours and more than 120 thousand liters of water to put out the fire. Subsequently, the burnt bodies of two men were found inside the car: the first was sitting in the front passenger seat, and the second - in the back. Before the trip, they told their wives that they wanted to go for a ride and mentioned the autopilot system. There was really no one in the driver's seat, so the media began to write that the accident was due to the Tesla automatic driving system. Our editorial staff immediately had a question: how could the autopilot system be turned on if no one was driving? After all, Tesla cars carefully ensure that while driving on autopilot, a person sits in the driver's seat and holds on to the steering wheel. A very mysterious story has happened - now I will tell you everything that is known at the moment.

Photos from the scene of the accident involving a Tesla car

Tesla crash in Texas

Fatal accident happened on April 18 and about herbecame known through The Verge. Two elderly men from the Texas city of Spring got into a car that did not fit into a turn and crashed into a tree. The police said that at the time of the accident, there was definitely no one in the driver's seat. It has been suggested that Tesla's autopilot is to blame for the deaths of the men. Many people easily believed this, but the owners of electric cars from Elon Musk strongly disagreed with the police version.

Another photo from the scene of the accident

The fact is that Tesla cars are closely monitored.ensuring that the driver always sits behind the wheel and watches the road. If the driver's seat does not feel the weight of a person in the driver's seat, his face is not in the camera view and no one is holding the steering wheel - the autopilot simply does not work. All this is done because the system still cannot fully control the vehicle and must be constantly monitored. Tesla's autopilot can only follow a given lane, park on its own, keep its distance from other cars and avoid collisions. In any dangerous situation, the driver must take control.

And in 2020, Tesla's autopilot tried to hide from the police. How is this possible?

How to trick Tesla's autopilot?

However, Tesla's autopilot can be easily fooled.One of the popular hackers recently said that the system starts working if a photo of the driver is hung in front of the camera inside the car. Even if the image does not move, the software thinks that the person is watching the road closely. The hand tracking feature can be fooled by simply stuffing a large orange into the steering wheel. And the pressure sensors on the driver's seat are simply turned off when deceived by the methods mentioned above.

Cheating a camera inside a Tesla car

And after the stunt with the orange, the car thinks that the driver's hands are on the steering wheel.

Apparently, it is these tricks andused by people who posted provocative videos with Tesla cars. In 2018, a man was stripped of his license for sitting in a passenger seat with his arms thrown back behind his head while driving an electric car. And in 2020, the blogger lay down to rest in the back seat while the car was driving on autopilot. True, it did not last long.

Tiktoker sleeps in the back seat of a car while driving

How safe is Tesla autopilot?

The accident in Texas is shrouded in mystery.Not only that, the Tesla car could not go on autopilot while the driver was in the passenger seat. Elon Musk generally said that the owner of the electric car did not buy the Full Self Driving feature, which costs $ 10,000. So at the moment, it is impossible to answer exactly what happened on the Texas road. We could assume that the men were simply cheating on Tesla's security system and resting in the passenger seats. But this is impossible if there was simply no autopilot in the car.

Elon Musk shared that Tesla with autopilot turned on is 10 times less likely to get into an accident compared to other vehicles

The fatal accident happened at a very inappropriatetime for Tesla. Many regulators began to seriously question the company's autopilot safety. In March, the NHTSA began investigating 23 accidents involving Tesla vehicles that may have been the autopilot's fault. There have been seven fatal accidents in the manufacturer's vehicles in the past 5 years, with the autopilot system being blamed most.

In 2019, a Tesla car drove under a semi-trailer and was left without a roof, and the driver died

In 2016, Tesla representatives boastedthat their cars drove about 210 million kilometers with the autopilot on. For comparison, people die on ordinary cars every 97 million kilometers of total mileage. In 2017, the NHTSA administration confirmed this data - according to statistics, in Tesla cars with the autopilot on, airbags are deployed 40% less often. From this we can conclude that vehicles with an autopilot are safer than with manual driving. But it is too early to draw hasty conclusions and it is better to wait for the results of new investigations. In the aftermath of the April accident, such cases will clearly be closely scrutinized.

Tesla autopilot works thanks to built-in sensors, but cannot yet take over control

In most accidents in Tesla vehiclesthe people themselves are to blame. The company is trying in every way to make sure that drivers follow the road even when the autopilot is on. But no - people want to outsmart technology and relax behind the wheel. In 2018, a Tesla car drove into a concrete divider and caught fire, after which the driver died in hospital. The investigation revealed that during the accident, the owner's hands were not on the steering wheel and his attention was clearly directed to the smartphone. In 2016, another person crashed in a Tesla car - it turned out that in 37 minutes of the trip he held the steering wheel for only 25 seconds.

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Finally, it should be noted that the problemTesla's car is not only autopilot. The company uses lithium-ion batteries for power supply, which can explode and burn from a strong shock even in the absence of oxygen. It took firefighters about 4 hours to put out a car in Texas. To do this, they had to call Tesla and consult with the company's specialists.