For many of us, the fatal crash involving a self-driving Tesla car on autopilot in May, seemed to justify our wariness of this new technology, however, it’s not all bad news. When American lawyer, Joshua Neally, suffered a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in the artery which takes blood to the lungs) which could have killed him, his car helped drive him to the hospital.
Neally had only got his Tesla Model X a few weeks before the incident. Aside from cool features like being totally electric, and back doors which open by sliding up like the wings of a bird (commonly referred to as gull-wing doors by most people and elegantly dubbed Falcon Wing doors by Tesla), the cars main gadgetry comes into play with its Autopilot system. It’s not a fully self-driving car but it does stay in its lane (even when the road is turning), brake, and control its speed, taking into account other traffic and speed limit signs.
The semi-autonomous Tesla models are not one-hundred percent hands-free, but you don’t need to keep your hands on the wheel at all times when driving them, which came in handy when Mr Neally suddenly began to feel an agonising pain in his chest on his commute home from work. “I called my wife and just said ‘Something’s wrong’, and I couldn't breathe. I was gasping, kind of hyperventilating,” Neally told TV channel KY3. “I just knew I had to get to the emergency room.”
Instead of pulling over to wait for an ambulance, Neally got the Model X’s Autopilot function to take him to the nearest hospital. The system required him to touch the steering wheel every few minutes but it took him over 20 miles until he was able to fully drive the last few blocks to the hospital. Had Neally passed out and been unable to touch the steering wheel, the Model X would have pulled safely over to the side of the road.
While pulling over to the side of the road to call an ambulance may have taken longer (possibly) but potentially been more advisable, it certainly seems that Neally’s Model X did its job well. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding self-driving cars, it’s great to hear one of the success stories! Plus, it’s a very cool looking car.
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