Tesla Driver Nearly Crashes Recreating Fatal Autopilot Accident

Tesla Autopilot Near Crash
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Last month, an Apple engineer died when his Tesla Model X crashed into a safety barrier while driving on Autopilot in Mountain View, California.

Local authorities, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and Tesla are all investigating the fatal accident. But another Tesla owner in Chicago decided to try his own investigation of the Autopilot functionality — and nearly crashed while recording it on video.

This might be a necessary preface to this story: we strongly recommend that you avoid recreating any Tesla crash with your own vehicle. That goes double if you try to record video while doing so.

With that being said, a Chicago area Tesla Model S owner attempted to do just that during his own ill-advised, vigilante experiment.

The driver recorded his Tesla driving on Autopilot 2.5 during a similar lane change scenario on a Chicago highway. And it brings up some worrying questions about how Tesla’s Autopilot handles these types of maneuvers.

In the video, the Tesla nearly crashed into a safety barrier when the highway split. It’s not clear what went wrong, but the video seems to show that the left-hand lane marker veers off and becomes the right-hand lane marker for the onramp. It’s also much more clearly marked — in fact, the actual marker for the left-lane is nearly nonexistent in this lighting.

While there are some obvious problems with the way the lanes are marked on that stretch of Chicago roadway, there are also issues with how Autopilot is detecting these lane markers — and how it fails to identify the safety barrier as a fixed obstacle in its path.

As the video shows, there’s little time to react to the erroneous maneuver — particularly for a Tesla driver who might not be paying attention. The driver in the video barely had time to correct the move since they were holding a camera and focused on recording.

It may not be fair to blame the tragic fatal crash solely on Tesla’s Autopilot mode. As the company pointed out, the safety barrier that the car crashed into was seemingly damaged — meaning it couldn’t do its job properly.

But, more than anything, these recent events illustrate one simple fact: self-driving car systems are still imperfect. Drivers in these vehicles must stay fully alert and be ready to take control at the drop of a hat.

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