Tesla’s autopilot feature and consequently autonomous technology as a whole has been getting some bad press in recent times.
Two earlier accidents where the autopilot feature of a Tesla was in use have been widely reported.
While investigations have been ongoing as to whether Tesla was at fault in any of the crashes, a positive point of view for autopilot in automobiles was sorely needed and this report of how a Tesla’s autopilot feature saved a man’s life is just the appropriate positive break.
Joshua Neally had been driving home from work late last month when he suddenly felt a sharp pain shoot through his lungs and into his chest while on the highway.
Reluctant to pull over and call an ambulance, he had instead asked his Tesla Model X car to find the nearest hospital and then engaged the autopilot feature.
The Tesla had driven him 20 miles to the nearest hospital, where he was then pulled into the emergency room and treated for a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal artery obstruction in the lungs. He was released that night and is now being treated for the condition.
The autopilot feature is a major selling point for Tesla’s self-driving cars. It allows a car to steer, accelerate, and even brake on its own for long stretches of freeway driving.
By allowing Neally to take his hands off the wheel for up to four minutes at a time, both car and driver were able to coast freely to the hospital without harming self or any other car on the road.
The earlier crash in May was in a Tesla Model S which featured an earlier version of the autopilot system. That system failed to detect an oncoming semi truck due to its camera not being able to detect the color of the truck, a mistake that cost driver Joshua Brown his life.
When another crash in Montana attributed to the Tesla’s Model S autopilot followed soon after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was drawn to examine whether autonomous driving technology was a hazard to safety. The federal investigations have left the public scared of Tesla’s autopilot feature.
This is why Joshua Neally’s experience is a much-needed break from all the negativity directed at autonomous technology and even without the need to reassure the public, a man’s life was saved and that is worth celebrating.