DETROIT, Mich.–In a reported recent incident, a Tesla on Autopilot (according to the driver) rammed into a stalled vehicle on a highway, doing so while the Tesla was moving along at a speed of around 60 mph and a crash occurred.
According to the driver of the Tesla, another car cut in front of him, staying there fleetingly, then moved rapidly over to the next lane, and within moments it became apparent that a car was stalled up ahead, and he and his Tesla were going to ram right into it, full force. He and his Tesla did so, and luckily he lived to tell the tale.
It might be instructive to consider how this kind of a crash occurred and what it portends for Tesla drivers using Autopilot, along with ramifications for autonomous self-driving driverless cars in general.
Diagnosing What Happens In Stalled Car Crashes
Sometimes you can maneuver out of the situation, while other times there is not any viable recourse and you get pinned into ramming into the stalled car.
Consider these two key elements:
• Specific context in the moment. The context of the specific driving predicament is a big factor in what will transpire since it determines what options might be viable and which ones are not.
• Driver mindset and actions. The thinking processes and actions of the driver are another crucial consideration for how the circumstance will play out.
If you try to hit your brakes, the question arises as to whether you can come to a stop in time, though even if you cannot come to a halt soon enough to prevent ramming of the stalled car, at least if you can ratchet down speed off your car you are going to reduce the likely amount of danger and resultant damage that can occur when you rear-end the other vehicle.
Beyond dealing with the speed of your car, you might perhaps swerve into another lane, either to your left or to your right, allowing you to either avoid entirely the stalled car, or maybe only sideswiping it, rather than plowing into it head-on.
Of course, the swerving action might be blocked by other cars that are to your left or right. Or, you might be able to do the swerve, yet other cars in the left or right lanes will then be disrupted by your movement into their lanes, possibly getting them directly involved in the pending crash. This often results in a domino-like cascade of cars hitting each other, doing so to avoid the sudden swerve that you made.
From the driver’s perspective, it is important to consider how much time did they have to take a potential avoidance kind of action and were they cognitively attune to have been able to use that time as best possible.
In other words, a human driver can be caught off-guard, and even if there was sufficient time to do something, the person might either become mentally confounded or be shocked into a state of being frozen, not sure of what to do, and potentially wasting those precious few seconds when an action might have made a significant difference to the outcome.
Read the whole story on Forbes.com by contributor Lance Eliot.