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Fatal semi-autonomous vehicle crash under investigation

While self-driving vehicles have received quite a bit of attention from the media and from legislators in California, semi-autonomous vehicles have been around for a while. From cruise control to parallel parking, steering and automatic braking, vehicles are taking on many of the tasks that used to be solely the driver's responsibility. However, relying too heavily on these features may be a mistake.

Tesla stated that the damages from the most recent fatal crash involving one of its vehicles with the Autopilot feature were unprecedented. The company's investigation into the crash so far seems to indicate that the severity of the crash was due at least in part to the lack of an adequate safety barrier in front of the concrete divider that the SUV crashed into head-on. The reason for the collision is not yet known, but according to data gathered by the company, vehicles with the Autopilot feature have driven safely past that same barrier approximately 85,000 times without incident.

In addition to the crash itself, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a fire caused by the vehicle's battery pack. Witnesses claim that the fire was not an issue in the driver's fatal injuries, as rescuers were able to remove him before the fire spread. The design of the battery is intended to keep a fire from spreading quickly, according to the company. In other crashes involving semi-autonomous vehicles, driver distraction has been a factor.

Whether fatal accidents are caused by faulty vehicle systems, poor road design or driver error, the outcome for victims and their family members can be devastating. Anyone who suffers as a result of such a crash may want to speak to an attorney who can assist in holding all the responsible parties liable.

Source: The Verge, "Tesla defends Autopilot after fatal Model X crash," Sean O'Kane, March 28, 2018

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