An all-electric car made by the Tesla Motor Company has crashed into a parked fire truck on Tuesday, Jan. 23 2018, while in its self-driving mode on the Los Angeles 405 highway. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but it certainly raises big questions to the safety of self-driving cars.
According to the Culver City Fire Department, located just East of Los Angeles, the electric car was traveling nearly 70 mph when it collided with the fire truck, which had responded to a separate accident the same day. Responding via Twitter, the fire department stated that the driver was using the vehicles autopilot function, allowing the car to handle simple tasks such as continuing in the correct lane. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the crash.
In an open statement, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk ensured the public that “Tesla Motor Company has warned drivers that the system won’t always detect stationary objects while driving at high speeds. We also require drivers to maintain hand contact on the wheel at all times—even if autonomous driving modes are activated. Our firm has the ability to analyze data gathered by our vehicles’ onboard computers to determine the cause of crashes.”
This crash highlights a major question that the auto industry is facing: Can a robot system be trusted with basic human safety while on the road? Fully autonomous cars have the potential to prove safer than cars with human drivers, largely due to the fact that it handles every aspect of driving on public roads. However, these systems are expensive and experimental, and would almost require a complete lack of human error to be 100% safe.
The Tesla Model S was the top selling plug-in electric car worldwide in 2015 and 2016, and has sold over 120,000 units in the United States alone since its introduction in 2012.