Sick of hearing about the Tesla driver fatality yet?
You probably heard about the Tesla Model X owner who recently got into a serious accident while using his vehicle’s Autopilot software. The latest news, according to BGR, is that the accident was the driver’s fault.
Here’s the open letter Mr. Pang wrote to Tesla (edited for clarity):
A Public Letter to Mr. Musk and Tesla for the Sake of All Tesla Drivers’ Safety
My name is Pang. On July 8, 2016, I drove my Tesla Model X from Seattle heading to Yellowstone Nation Park, with a friend, Mr. Huang, in the passenger seat. When we were on Highway I90, I turned on Autopilot, and drove for about 600 miles. I switched Autopilot off while we exited I90 in Montana to State Route 2. After about one mile, we saw that road condition was good, and turned on Autopilot again. The speed setting was between 55 and 60 mph. After we drove about another mile on State Route 2, the car suddenly veered right and crashed into the safety barrier post. It happened so fast, and we did not hear any warning beep.
Autopilot did not slow down at all after the crash, but kept going in the original speed setting and continued to crash into more barrier posts at high speed. I managed to step on the brake, turn the car left, and stopped the car after it crashed 12 barrier posts. After westopped, we heard the car making abnormally loud sound. Afraid that the battery was broken or short circuited, we got out and ran away as fast as we could. After we ran about 50 feet, we found the sound was the engine still running in high speed.
I returned to the car and put it in park. That is when the loud sound disappeared. Our cell phone did not have coverage, and asked a lady passing by to call 911 on her cell phone. After the police arrived, we found the right side of the car was totally damaged. The right front wheel, suspension, and headlight had flown off and landed far away, and the right rear wheel was crushed out of shape. We noticed that the barrier post is about two feet from the white line. The other side of the barrier is a 50-foot drop, with a railroad at the bottom, and a river next. If the car rolled down the steep slope, it would be really bad.
Concerning this crash accident, we want to make several things clear:
- We know that while Tesla Autopilot is on but the driver’s hand is not on the steering wheel, the system will issue a warning beep sound after a while. If the driver’s hands continue to be off the steering wheel, Autopilot will slow down, until the driver takes over both the steering wheel and gas pedal. But we did not hear any warning beep before the crash, and the car did not slow down, either. It just veered right in a sudden and crashed into the barrier posts. Apparently the Autopilot system malfunctioned and caused the crash. The car was running between 55 and 60 mph, and the barrier posts are just three or four feet away. It happened in less than 1/10 of a second from the drift to crash. For a normal driver, it is impossible to avoid a crash in such a short time.
- I was horrified by the fact that the Tesla Autopilot did not slow down the car at all after the initial crash. After we crashed on the first barrier post, Autopilot continued to drive the car with the speed of 55 to 60 mph, and crashed another 11 posts. Even after I stopped the car, it was still trying to accelerate and spinning the engine in high speed. What if it had not been barrier posts on the right side of the car, but a crowd of people?
- Tesla never contacted me after the accident. Tesla just issued a conclusion without a thorough investigation, but blamed me for the crash. Tesla were trying to cover up the lack of dependability of its Autopilot system, but blamed everything on my hands not being on the steering wheel. Tesla were not interested in why the car veered right suddenly, nor why the car did not slow down during the crash. It is clear that Tesla is selling a beta product with bugs to consumers and asks the consumers to be responsible for the liability of the bugging Autopilot system. Tesla is using all Tesla drivers as lab rats. We are willing to talk to Tesla concerning the accident anytime, anywhere, in front of the public.
- CNN’s article about the accident was quoting our interview out of context. I did not say that I did not know if either Tesla or I should be considered responsible for the accident. I might consider buying another Tesla only if they can iron out the instability problems of their system.
As a survivor of such a bad accident and a past fan of the Tesla technology, I now realize that life is the most precious fortune in this world. Any advance in technology should be based on the prerequisite of protecting life to the maximum extent. When faced with a life or death decision, no technology has the right to ignore protecting life. Any pursuit or dream related to technology should first show respect to life.
For the sake of the safety of all Tesla drivers and passengers, and all other people sharing the road with Tesla cars, Mr. Musk should stand up as a man, face the challenge to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident, and take responsibility for the mistakes of Tesla’s product. We are willing to publicly talk to you face to face anytime to give you all the details of what happened. Mr. Musk, you should immediately stop trying to cover up the problems of the Tesla Autopilot system and stop blaming the consumers.
After the accident, Tesla issued a statement that said Mr. Pang was not properly using the Autopilot feature. Then Mr. Pang wrote the above letter. Over the weekend, Tesla wrote the following letter and published it to the Tesla Motors Club forum:
Dear Mr. Pang,
We were sorry to hear about your accident, but we were very pleased to learn both you and your friend were ok when we spoke through your translator on the morning of the crash (July 9). On Monday immediately following the crash (July 11), we found a member of the Tesla team fluent in Mandarin and called to follow up.
When we were able to make contact with your wife the following day, we expressed our concern and gathered more information regarding the incident. We have since made multiple attempts (one Wednesday, one Thursday, and one Friday) to reach you to discuss the incident, review detailed logs, and address any further concerns and have not received a call back.
We are still seeking to speak with you. Please contact Tesla service so that we can answer any further questions you may have.
The Tesla Team
What do you think? Is Tesla or the driver at fault for Mr. Hang’s accident?