This Self-Driving Car Prevented a D.C. Pedestrian Accident

By Peter DePaolis

In a previous blog, we talked about how a self-driving car in Autopilot mode failed to recognize a semi-truck that had pulled out in front of it, causing a fatal accident. However, it seems another autonomous vehicle made headlines for an entirely different reason. A self-driving car in the Washington, D.C. area automatically braked and saved a life in a separate incident last month.

According to the driver, the self-driving car was on New York Avenue at night facing the glare of headlights from cars in the opposite direction when sirens began to blare. While looking for the direction the sirens were coming from, a pedestrian wearing dark clothes walked in front of the Model S and the driver failed to notice. Fortunately, the car’s sensors did. The car’s Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) kicked in, and the car stopped just inches away from the pedestrian.

Just several months before this close call, a video went viral showing a Tesla self-driving car in Autopilot mode swerve on a highway to prevent a collision with a truck (the truck driver was not paying attention).

Is Tesla’s Autopilot System Safe?

Tesla markets its self-driving cars as economically more efficient, better for the environment and safer. According to Tesla’s CEO, “the probability of having an accident is 50 percent lower if you have Autopilot on.” And while we have our doubts, we can’t deny the car’s Autopilot has the advantage over our human senses while driving. The car is equipped with advanced software, cameras, ultrasonic sensors, radar and automatic parking.

However, the software company that programs the autonomous cars for Tesla is moving away from the company. According to Fortune, the statement released implies the software company is concerned about the fatal accident and weary about the likelihood of future incidents. Yet, Tesla has announced it will not disable the Autopilot system. Rather, it will focus on educating drivers how to properly use this system.

A Self-Driving Car May Need More Regulation

According to Tesla, the Autopilot mode is a “public beta,” which means it’s not completely finished in development, but it is deemed safe enough for users to experiment with. However, last month’s fatal crash cannot be ignored and is proof the technology is still flawed. It seems the cars offer too much autonomy too soon. While the self-driving cars are impressive and have helped drivers avoid more collisions than cause them, we hope they become more carefully regulated.

Contact our D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys

The Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP help victims who have sustained injuries or lost loved ones in car accidents. Contact us today to speak to one of our attorneys. 


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.