As you've probably heard, five Texas police officers are suing Tesla for $1,000,000 following an incident where a Model X crossover crashed into them and their patrol cars. The crash happened during a traffic stop after dark back in late February 2021.
The Tesla Model X was reportedly on Autopilot, and the driver of the Model X was reportedly drunk. This makes the situation quite complicated. However, if the police officers win the lawsuit against Tesla, it will set a crazy precedent that may have a monumental impact in the future.
We should side with the police officers here, and we do. No one should have to go through what they do. We appreciate their service. Officers have to deal with scary situations all the time, and they put their lives on the line. We can only imagine how upsetting it would be if a drunk driver nearly killed us and our colleagues. That said, we're don't really know if suing Tesla is their best course of action here.
The officers filed the suit against Tesla and Pappas Restaurant. According to Electrek, a statement from the lawsuit reads, :
"Due to the design and manufacturing defects known to Tesla, Tesla’s failure to adequately warm of those defects, and Tesla’s unwillingness to admit or correct such defects, the Autopilot and Tesla’s system safety features failed to detect the officers’ cars or to function in any way to avoid or warn of the hazard and subsequent crash.”
Pappas Restaurant is included in the lawsuit since it's the establishment that served the Model X driver too much alcohol prior to the crash. The complaint also adds:
"Tesla knows and encourages drivers to think that their autopilot and self-drive modes are better than regular cruise control, but then in their written warning to consumers, tell them to maintain the type of control over the vehicle that would be expected and appropriate with any standard cruise control system."
It's important to understand that no matter what you think of how well, or badly, Tesla Autopilot performs, or how Tesla and CEO Elon Musk have worked to "advertise" the technology, it may not make any difference in a case like this.
One of the main reasons drunk driving is illegal is that it clouds our judgment. Not only does it slow down reaction times and do a whole lot of other things to our bodies, which make it difficult to drive safely, but it also makes us decide to get into the car in the first place. People make very terrible decisions when they're drunk, and it's their responsibility not to get drunk in the first place, and to own up to their actions, as well as the consequences if they do get drunk and do something stupid.
To say that Tesla and Elon Musk have convinced this driver it's safe to drink and drive on Autopilot is a tough case. Sure, Tesla makes it clear that drivers are supposed to remain attentive and ready to take control at any time while Autopilot is activated. However, we know full well that many drivers don't follow those rules, and it's scary. However, there's little possibility that a drunk driver can remain alert and in control of any vehicle, regardless of its technology.
To be honest, this is such a challenging set of circumstances that makes it nearly impossible for us to form a valid opinion, nor can we forecast how the case will play out. We're not legal experts, and we don't have all of the information that's available to the police offers.
For this reason, we ask you. Perhaps we have some lawyers or people with experience in the legal system that can break this all down? We encourage you to visit the comment section and start a conversation about this topic.
Inspired by a comment below, which we figured we would be, we've added the following text:
Comment from Wla Home: "If gun manufacturers can basically be immune from prosecution I don’t see how Tesla could be found guilty here. The restaurant on the other hand…"
Our response: Guns kill. Gun manufacturers are aware guns kill. Gun manufacturers tell people to use guns responsibly. However, people still kill people with guns, and sometimes those murderers are drunk. Have any gun manufacturers been held responsible? If a judge rules against Tesla in this case, should gun manufacturers worry?
What do you think would have happened if a car's advanced driver-assist systems were found to save officers' lives when a drunk was behind the wheel? In this case, Autopilot didn't take over and avoid the drunk driving crash, but it has in many other instances.
If a driver of a non-Tesla vehicle was drunk, hit police officers, and then it was later learned that the car was equipped with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and/or other collision mitigation systems, would the automaker be at fault? If Tesla is found at fault here, will all drunk driving crashes be the fault of the automaker if its advanced driver-assist systems failed to engage?