Tesla’s Setback: Autopilot, Lithium Batteries and Fire

Tesla’s Model X with self-driving autopilot technology and crash-avoidance systems nevertheless crashed into a barrier, igniting the Lithium battery pack and killing an an Apple engineer.

According to DZNet,   the NTSB’s preliminary findings of the investigation “don’t look good for Elon Musk’s electric-vehicle company” in as much as the vehicle’s crash-avoidance systems failed to kick in “before the horrific crash, which sheared off the front-end of the Model X and killed its 38-year-old driver, Apple engineer Wei ‘Walter’ Huang.”

Verge, a technology and culture site, reported Tesla is a party “in two other ongoing investigations into non-fatal accidents: one from January 22nd, 2018 involving Autopilot, and one from last summer involving a battery fire.

The Model X utilizes Lithium ion batteries that may ignite in crashes, although there are no reliable statistics as yet that show the battery pack is more prone to fires than traditional gasoline tanks.

Click here to read Tesla’s statement about the crash. The company noted: “If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.”

The issue explored in this post concerns other variables associated with self-driven cars using Lithium-ion batteries that may be prone to fire. Factor that with increasing distracted driver statistics due to smartphones and other digital devices in cars. The National Safety Council reports that “more than 3,000 people are killed on U.S. roads every year in distracted driving crashes, the federal government reports. Cell phone use is a common driver distraction.”

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine covers self-driven cars and the complexities of human life that technology sometimes cannot compute: “Human motivation and decision-making, even in negotiating who drives first at a four-way stop (something self-driving cars cannot achieve), are too complex, random and illogical.”

Self-driven cars have a long way to go in assessing the multitude of variables that may contribute to future tragic crashes.

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