Autopilot Prevents Pedestrian Collision in Washington, Might Have Saved His Life

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Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
Elon Musk is very upset with the media lately. He's angry because all the press is reporting, he says, are the times the Autopilot malfunctioned and caused a crash. Well, somebody should tell Mr. Musk that this how the media has always worked.
You don't read articles on how a surgeon managed to perform a successful appendicitis intervention. Or how a soccer player scored a goal. Or how a street broom sweeper swept a street. You get where this is going, right? There is nothing newsworthy in something or someone doing the job he or it is meant to do. That's called "normality" and nobody is interested in hearing about it.

However, faced with the wave of hostility, Tesla owners have rallied around their vehicles and their maker and made it very clear they are not interested in having the Autopilot disabled. A poll among Tesla owners revealed that zero percent of them were in favor of this extreme measure.

During a conference held yesterday, NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind made a few remarks that support Tesla's decision to release its semi-autonomous driving system before it reached a fully-autonomous level. "If we wait for perfect, we'll be waiting for a very, very long time. How many lives might we be losing while we wait?" he asked rhetorically.

So, with Autopilot's integrity safe for the moment (the NHTSA still has an ongoing investigation into the fatal incident involving Joshua Brown on May 7), Tesla is looking towards the future. Musk has just released the second part of the company's Master Plan, ten years after the first one was made public. As expected, one of the key points was the development of autonomous vehicles, something Tesla will continue to work on in the future.

This morning, the company received an incentive in this respect in the form of a letter from a customer. A man named Larry wrote in to tell the story of how the Automatic Emergency Braking feature on his car might have saved the life of jaywalker. The funny part is that Larry doesn't appear to be very up to date with the events.

First of all, he refers to the fatal Florida crash as an event that happened "a few weeks ago," probably mistaking the date the news broke out with when it actually happened. Then, he ends his letter by saying "thanks for letting customers use Autopilot even though it is in beta," even though Musk has been stressing the Autopilot isn't actually in "beta," but that was just the company's way of saying it is still in development. But even with these minor issues, the letter did get mentioned in one of Musk's tweets. You can read it in its entirety below:


I wanted to let you know that I think my car probably saved the life of a pedestrian last night, 7/16 around 10:30pm when I was driving in Washington DC with my daughter. I was on New York Ave and it was night time, there was a lot of glare from the headlights of oncoming cars, and there was a siren in the distance. We were having trouble figuring out if the siren was coming from behind us or from one of the side roads when a pedestrian stepped out in front of our Model S in the dark with dark clothes and in the middle of the road (not near an intersection).

Before I could step on the brakes the beeped (collision warnings) and the picture of a red car came up on my dash. The car slammed on the breaks before I could and we stopped just inches from hitting the pedestrian. I guess that the car thought the pedestrian was another car in front of us? I am not sure if I would have been able to stop before hitting him but I am so glad the car did. I am not sure if the event is recorded in the cars sensor logs.

At a time when there are so many negative stories about Autopilot and the death that occurred a few weeks ago, I thought that it was important to let you all know about this story. The work that you are all doing is really important and is saving lives. Unfortunately, incidents like this one don’t get written about in the press and most of the time no one is ever aware of how many accidents your safety features may have prevented. Thanks and thanks for letting customers use Autopilot even though it is in beta.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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