Back in early August, 2022, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating two fatal July, 2022 crashes resulting in dead motorcyclists, both of which involved Teslas that were suspected to be using their Autopilot feature. In October, 2022, newly-released NHTSA statistics revealed a third Tesla-involved motorcyclist fatality that occurred in late August.
The crash happened in Boca Raton, Florida, on August 26, 2022. At approximately 2:11 a.m., a Tesla Model 3 driven by Boca Raton resident Richard Dorfman rear-ended a Kawasaki Vulcan S piloted by Ingrid Noon, also from Boca Raton. Noon was thrown backwards from her bike by the force of the impact and struck the Tesla’s windshield. She later died from her injuries at a nearby medical center. According to CNN, the official report from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office stated that the Tesla driver was using the car’s Autopilot and was driving impaired at the time of the crash.
That makes three fatal crashes in under 60 days involving Teslas using Autopilot, all of which resulted in dead motorcyclists who were hit from behind. What’s especially maddening is that Tesla appears to seemingly be talking out both sides of its mouth.
Not A New Problem:
On the one hand, it officially states that its cars are not able to drive themselves, and that driver supervision is necessary at all times. On the other, it uses names like “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving,” yet expects everyone to know that it’s winking while it uses these words in ways that it says don’t mean what they usually mean. (Apparently, there’s regular English, and then there’s Tesla English.)
NHTSA’s investigations are currently ongoing as of October 20, 2022. As of an October 19 Tesla post-earnings call reported by Reuters, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance software will not gain regulatory approval to operate vehicles without a human driver behind the wheel in 2022.
In the call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke about an upgrade coming to North American users of the Full Self-Driving system, which will allegedly mean that “The car will be able to take you from your home to your work, your friend's house, the grocery store without you touching the wheel,” according to Reuters.
Having the potential to be safer for other road users is not the same as actually being safer for other road users. As long as fatal crashes like these keep happening, we will continue to be skeptical and draw attention to these problems.