Last year, there was a devastating accident that took place in the local area involving a new Tesla Model 3. This individual was driving his car south on a two-lane highway that weaves its way through the community of Santa Ana. Even though he was the only person in the car, he was from alone. Tesla has a driver-assist system that acts as an autopilot in some cases. The autopilot function is capable of changing lanes, steering, braking, and more. For some reason, and without warning, the autopilot system activated. The driver was yanked to the left and his car crossed the double yellow line. Furthermore, the car did not brake when this occurred. The car plowed through an oncoming traffic lane and crashed into a ditch. The driver suffered serious injuries and filed a lawsuit against Tesla. According to The May Firm, “a report from Allstate Insurance Company ranked Long Beach among the cities with the most traffic collisions in the United States,” which means that more car accidents might be likely in the future.
In court documents, Tesla did confirm that the autopilot system had engaged; however, Tesla still blamed the driver despite the role autopilot clearly played in the accident. Clearly, Tesla had access to other data if it could confirm that the autopilot system was engaged. The individual and his attorney asked Tesla to release the data so that they could see for themselves what had happened during the car accident. In response, Tesla refused. They asked the individual and his lawyer to look at the car’s event recorder. This event recorder acts as a black box that many people hear about during plane crashes; however, this black box does not record information from autopilot. That information is recorded separately by Tesla and is stored on a cloud computer database.
This issue sparks the question about just how much information Tesla is recording. While it is interesting that the car now has a black box that records key information during an accident, it is even more interesting that Tesla is recording information about its autopilot program and storing it separately on a cloud computing device. Why is Tesla recording this information separately? Why would Tesla refuse to release this information in the midst of a lawsuit? Will this information be released to the plaintiff and his legal team if they file a discovery motion?
As this individual lawsuit weaves its way through the court system, this case has also sparked a larger discussion among legislators. The government continues to lag behind the rapid pace at which technology is developing. Mobile robots are gradually taking over a larger share of the wheel. What started off as backup cameras and progressed to blind spot warnings and lane-departure assist technology now includes an autopilot system in Tesla cars. Now, there is an accident that might have been caused by Tesla’s autopilot program. This sparks larger legal questions that are going to impact how drivers operate in the future.