My Car Quest

July 21, 2024

Another Tesla Driver’s Family Sues The Company

It’s about time Elon Musk was called onto Congress’ carpet for this fatal flaw.

by Wallace Wyss –

As much as I like the Tesla, I have to reckon with the fact that it has a fatal flaw. Every once in a while one of their cars kills its driver if the driver puts too much faith in the so-called “Autopilot system.”

Once again a Tesla has killed its driver (on March 1, 2019). This is the fourth known person to die while using Autopilot, and his family is the second to sue Tesla over a fatal crash involving the technology. It has already been determined the Autopilot system was on.

Again a tractor trailer was cutting across its bow, to use sailor talk, and the Tesla didn’t see it, and tried to go under it. Virtually identical to the first such death reported, back in May 2016, where a truck was cutting across the Tesla’s path, killing the Tesla’s driver.

In his defense Musk says that the system isn’t automatic–it requires that drivers remain attentive and ready to take control of the car. But it’s obvious owners are putting too much faith in it. After all, it is seemingly viceless, so why not relax and let the car do the steering?

And yet Musk keeps the system’s name “Autopilot” making it seem like the Autopilot in an airplane where it truly can fly on its own. Why can’t Musk just admit his car’s need another supplementary system to spot trucks? Those four drivers died because of Musk’s stubbornness, first his stubbornness to change the name to something that is not such a blatant lie and secondly because he wants the name Autopilot to be a sales attraction to potential drivers from thinking the perfect system already exists, that it has been invented and is already available on Tesla vehicles.

Tesla might argue in court that on the latest crash, their system did not detect the driver’s hands on the wheel for the eight seconds before the crash but I say again it’s the name of the feature “AUTOpilot” that implies it is being automatically piloted. Not to worry, right?

Tesla Model 3

Image from Tesla

It is true that in this latest accident, the owner was speeding, going 68 mph when the speed limit was 55 mph, and failed to make any last minute evasive maneuvers. What happened next is gruesome. As the car went under the truck, or to be more exact, the car body went under but, like the first Tesla death the roof didn’t make it, shorn off.

Copywriters must be in short supply at Tesla’s ad agency that no one can think of a name for this dubious feature that doesn’t lead people astray as to its capabilities.

It is difficult to re-recreate an accident but it could be done. If the Tesla Autopilot had signaled a danger, I think it could be proven that the driver still had a few seconds to stop. But that driver was trusting the Autopilot to keep him out of trouble.

I compare the Autopilot system on a Tesla to a guest you are reluctant to invite to a party. What if someone told you that you should invite Richard, who is well groomed, erudite, and indeed charming but the rumor is that, every few months at a party, he takes out a knife and cuts another guest’s head off? Gives you a moment of pause, doesn’t it?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is co-host of Autotalk, broadcast weekly from KUCR FM Riverside, CA (88.3 FM).




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Another Tesla Driver's Family Sues The Company
Article Name
Another Tesla Driver's Family Sues The Company
Tesla keeps the system's name "Autopilot" making it seem like the Autopilot in an airplane where it truly can fly on its own. But the Tesla cannot drive on its own.


  1. Local news here in San Jose, CA, Sunday evening, either ABC or NBC indicated the driver had turned around to tend to a dog in the back seat which if true does lend another angle to this story and likely a dead dog.

  2. wallace wyss says

    Having just been hit by a lady who had a passenger and a full size German shepherd in their two seater mini truck as they plowed into me, I can see what you’re implying. We have all these laws about people being properly belted but what about dogs? I can see a 60-lb. German Shepherd flying through the air as being somehat of a distraction. I don’t think the NHTSA has done any tests on dogs contributing to accidents. AUTOpilot (my caps) figures into this too, the driver feeling the Tesla is taking care of steering, braking and acceleration so I have time for the dog…

  3. R. Bartholomew says

    I resent the use of the name Richard as a bad party guest. The author could just have easily used Wallace or with a little creativity and thought maybe something like Dr Jekyll.

    side note : I saw a Tesla accident in person, at least right after it happened. A car was half up over the curb and a light pole was just behind it and laying out into the street. An old guy and younger woman were standing there talking to the authorities. Maybe he was demonstrating the power after making a left turn onto the straight and just lost it.

  4. Autopilot and autonomous vehicles are not things that give me comfort in our hurried age of burgeoning technology… rushing these things to market thinking they are fool proof will cause more grief I fear… we experience pilot error in both air craft and land base vehicles why would we think that some how a device might not experience errors as well… the sheer fact that they are as good as they are is a testament to how far technology has come, but clearly that technology is not completely sorted yet.

  5. imwithstoopid says

    You can’t fix stupid, period.
    This is the fourth and we still won’t take responsibility for our actions or lack thereof.
    Try to land an aircraft so equipped (on auto-pilot) and I guarantee someone is in for a bad surprise.
    A short time ago someone put a You-Tube video up that showed a Tesla driver asleep. How do you xix that?
    I agree that we are some distance in time to the truly autonomous vehicle. But not if you read the glowing reports put out. One owner tried the “come-and-get-me feature and the car ran into another car pulling out of a building’s garage, It is said that someone heard the car say it didn’t see the other one.
    The only feature I would like to see is a cruise control that would automatically maintain distance from both the front and rear of each car. Until then I guess I’ll walk.

  6. I find Tesla drivers to be some of the most inconsiderate, obnoxious, pushy, boors on the roadways. They’re right up there with the asshats driving Audis, BMW’s and Priuses. I encounter these clowns everyday. I don’t need to be high beamed and honked at because I’m doing 70 MPH and not going 90+ MPH in the right hand lane. Slow down or go drive in the left hand lanes and go into hyperdrive in your electric wonder mobiles. Bay Area drivers are some of the worst in the US, and Tesla isn’t helping any with the entitled techies who buy and drive those cars, etc.

    • Mark, really?! We do have some bad drivers in the Bay Area and some with bad attitudes who tell on themselves too like that guy in your mirror. What you say is impossible. One of my daily drivers is a restomod 1967 Olds 442 convertible and it’s really cool that most every time I go out in it I get compliments often leading to nice conversations. I really detest the Prius design, IMHO it looks as much like a large bread toaster on wheels as it does a car. One early morning I was on my way to a breakfast meeting in the 442 and as a Prius passed me I was thinking once again how ugly that car is and if I were to get the chance I’d tell the next Prius driver just how I felt. Not a minute later a Prius pulls up alongside me at a traffic light and as I turn toward him he yells out “WOW! I love your car!” So I thanked him, told him he had really good taste and now both on the road and as much as possible in life I try to only be positive. If I don’t have something good or positive to say I try to keep it zipped, a good lesson for all of us.

      Happy New Year

  7. wallace wyss says

    Most people don’t remember the first Prus or first mass oroduced hybrid from Toyota had no distinctive styling, sharing, as it were, some nondescript body from some low buck model, maybe the Echo. But then they came out with the body you love, the door stop, and sales perked up, I think because the early adopters like driving something space age and futuristic. That way they get noticed more and patted on the head more for “saving the planet.” So now with Japanese companies they seem convinced that the ecology cars have to be wierd in some way so the greenies that buy or lease them can be noticed for being an early adopter. Like Honda with their hydrogen car with the wierd rear wheelwell shapes.

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