Tesla has been under fire after a driver was killed back in May while Autopilot was enabled in his Tesla Model S. The media seems to have talked about it non stop, as everyone I encounter that knows little about Tesla asks me about it. It seems they know nothing about the cars, but thanks to the news they think they're all death traps. We don't have all of the details of that crash, but it seems that driver negligence was the most likely factor. But I will bet that when those details do come, the news will not be reporting again.
That's why it's refreshing to hear about the times that Autopilot saves a life, such as the story of a Tesla helping drive itself to the hospital while the drive was having a pulmonary embolism.
Now comes the story from a Tesla Model X owner of Autopilot taking evasive action before the driver even knew anything was wrong. Diana Becker of Los Angeles, California, posted the following story on Facebook:
I and my two children were just saved yesterday from a bad crash by autopilot. Thank you to Tesla for possibly saving our lives.
It was the last day of our 27 day road trip across the Western US. We had travelled approximately 5,500 miles. I was driving South on the 15 freeway in the middle lane at 70 mph exactly (the speed limit) with autopilot on (it acts as cruise control for steering and speed--and was set to 7 car lengths from the car ahead of me with a maximum speed of 70).
I was leaving Las Vegas, talking to my daughter, hands on the wheel, eyes ahead of me, and aware of the car to my left as well as those in other lanes and behind me. The fact is, autopilot made me more aware of my surroundings, because my eyes and concentration were not glued to the stripes marking the lanes half of the time like those of other drivers who don't have this feature.
The car to the left of me, with NC plates, crossed suddenly from the left lane all the way to the right lane coming within less than a foot off my front bumper. The thing is, that was how close he was AFTER my autopilot braked. Had the car not braked we would have been in his path, the front end would have been clipped violently to the right, spinning our car around and we would have been hit by the cars that were following us. Anyone who takes that route from Vegas to LA understands what kind of traffic I am describing, and how crowded it is.
It was a very upsetting experience as it happened so quickly that I never saw the NC car swerving into my lane until my Tesla Model X had already braked just enough to let him slip past. There was absolutely no possible way an average human being Could have reacted in that instant, but if I had, I most certainly would have slammed on my brakes and been rear-ended by the crowd behind me.
This happened to me at 9 am on Monday, August 8, 2016. It is a common scenario with all Tesla owners using this feature but you never hear about accidents that don't happen. They are not part of the statistical database.
Now we'll just have to wait and see if this positive story gets as much coverage as the few negative stories have. I am glad that people with positive and even life saving experiences with Autopilot are coming forward to share their stories. I imagine that as the technology improves, we'll hear much more like this.