Tesla, the leading electric automaker, announced in October that it is equipping all of its vehicles, including the Model 3, its first affordably priced car, with the hardware needed for fully autonomous driving.
Tesla’s president announced that its software will allow these cars to navigate even the most complex city streets and that by the end of 2017 all new Tesla vehicles will be able to drive coast to coast without anyone ever having touch the steering wheel.
In September, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of guidelines, with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and National Economic Council Director Jeffrey Zients making the announcement.
Just four states, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada plus the District of Columbia, allow vehicles with limited self-driving capabilities to activate them on major highways.
But how safe are these cars? In May, a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S using the company’s limited Autopilot feature occurred in Florida. There also have been crashes with the self-driving mode Tesla this year in California, Beijing, Germany and the Netherlands. Tesla’s crash-avoidance autopilot system is being examined to determine if some of these crashes were caused by this or another type of failure in the braking system.
This new type of car has some safety experts concerned, particularly in light of the recent statistics that show the motor vehicle deaths in 2015 were 8 percent higher than the year before, the largest year-over-year percent increased in 50 years, according to the National Safety Council.
Let’s hope that lives are not going to be compromised in the rush of automakers trying to get this new technology on the road.