Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot technology has been lambasted by the media in the wake of several recent accidents. It’s making headlines once again, but this time the story is much more positive.
A Model S owner wrote a letter to Tesla to explain how his car’s Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system saved a pedestrian’s life in Washington, D.C. He remembers that he was driving at about 10:30 p.m. while trying to figure out if the sirens he was hearing were coming from behind him or from a side street when, suddenly, a pedestrian dressed in dark clothing stepped out onto the Model S’ path. The car emitted visual and audible warnings, and it autonomously slammed on the brakes in time to stop just a few inches away from the pedestrian.
“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,” the owner wrote. “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,” he added.
Tesla confirmed the incident by downloading the vehicle logs. However, it’s important to note that AEB works even when Autopilot isn’t turned on and the driver is in full control of the car. Notably, AEB is standard on even the base Model S, while Autopilot is a $3,000 option.
Tesla boss Elon Musk stated that he has no plans to deactivate Autopilot in spite of the bad press it’s received recently, and he addressed the system’s critics in the second part of his so-called master plan, which was published online earlier this week. Specifically, he mentioned that the software gets better every day, but it will wear the “beta” label until it’s approximately 10 times safer than the average driver.