In Defense of Tesla’s Autopilot, Part 1

8 Jul

Tesla Autopilot Accident

Before Joshua Brown was killed in his Tesla Model S while watching a movie on Autopilot, I had a conversation with my friend, Comms. “The first person to kill someone in a Tesla on Autopilot,” Comms said, “is going to be responsible for 340,000 deaths.”

Comms is an old friend working in communications for a major automotive manufacturer. He’d just spent an hour failing to convince me Elon Musk was the modern Preston Tucker, but I couldn’t argue with his newest line of reasoning.

“Nonsense,” I said. “It’s great. I know its limitations.”

But he was right. I did almost kill 340,000 people the last time I drove a Tesla on Autopilot. It was amazing how close I came. There they were, lined up on both shoulders of the Interstate like luminous bowling pins waiting to be mowed down. I remembered how well Autopilot worked, and wanting to close my eyes, or watch a movie, or open my laptop and answer emails.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Comms. “If you don’t kill someone. Someone else will.”


“Definitely. Every time you try to set a Cannonball record on Autopilot, you run the risk of an accident that will set back the whole industry ten years. It’s dangerous—”

“So if Autonomous Driving is supposed to cut fatalities by 90%, and 38,000 Americans were killed last year, if I become that guy I’m responsible for—”

“Killing 34,000 people. Every year. For ten years. 340,000 deaths.”

“Legally, the driver is still responsible.”

Comms smiled. “Do you really think that matters?”

Read the rest over at

Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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