Self-Driving Car Crash Raises Questions About Safety

UPDATED | September 6, 2016 5:30 p.m.

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas man says his car drove him straight into a guardrail at 80-miles-an-hour. The wreck is raising questions about the safety of self-driving cars.

“Someone is going to get hurt!”

Mark Molthan is driving his third Tesla. He is a big fan of the car and the computer inside the car, but he is very outspoken about what recently happened to him.

“If you are not fully attentive of that car at all times, it will wreck. It will wreck.”

Molthan says he is the latest victim of an autopilot accident.

“I’m very fortunate. I’m healthy. My dog is healthy. …The next guy may not be and that’s the only reason I accepted to do this interview.”

Molthan says he was driving his Tesla Model S in autopilot on Highway 175 in Kaufman on August 7, 2016. He says he had driven that road in autopilot at least a dozen times.

His dog, Honey, was in the car with him.

“I reached down to pet the dog. I grabbed a rag they give you to clean the screen, and I looked up and it was over.”

At 80-miles an hour, Molthan says the car hit a curve in the road and then slammed into the guardrail.

But Molthan says it did not end there. He says his car accelerated again.

“I just wanted the car to stop. I just really wanted the car to stop.”

Molthan says Honey flew to the backseat. The next thing he remembers is waking up with blood all over his shirt. He was cocooned in airbags. He says he had cuts, bruises and a concussion.

“The car got me in the wreck, but it also saved my life. It’s not the person in the car that is going to get hurt, it’s the person he car hits.”

Molthan’s accident is just the latest in a number of recent reports and online videos showing self-driving cars crashing. They involve many makers; however, in May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the first ever reported fatal Tesla autopilot accident. The crash killed the Tesla driver.

In an email to the I-Team, Tesla says the autopilot feature provides a “hands-on experience.” When activated, the car tells you to “keep your hands on the wheel.”

But what do those selling the car say?

The I-Team took our undercover cameras inside a Tesla store in Dallas. A sales representative told us, “We don’t have to sit there and have our hands just glued to the steering wheel the entire trip or our feet just glued to the pedals.”

We questioned him about what the feature does allow you to do? “We can’t just read a book or watch a movie or fall asleep in the vehicle. …We temporarily need to read a text message or send an email temporarily we can do that…,” explained the sales representative.

Molthan says you should not do that. He repeatedly called the feature a “false sense of security.”

“If I could save one person from being killed or having a really terrible accident, that’s all I want to try and do,” said Molthan.

Three weeks after his accident, he is not suing the car manufacturer. He has recovered. His dog is ok. And, he and wife still drive Teslas, but they do not drive in autopilot.

Molthan says the feature should not be on the fast track…”not yet.”

“Let’s slow it down or let people know they are a test a test pilot to a technology that is not perfect.”

The government is working on new guidelines and regulations for autopilot. NHTSA tells the I-team it does not know when those will be released.

The agency also says statistics on crashes involving autopilot “are not available.”

NHTSA confirmed its investigation into the May Tesla fatal accident is still underway.

Earlier this week, Tesla announced that it is making changes to its autopilot feature. Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a Tweet that a software update will be released in a few weeks.

The Associated Press reported that the CEO said a software update will make “major improvements” to autopilot including more advanced processing of radar signals. Radar allows the car to detect obstructions that cameras cannot see due to bad weather or blinding sunlight.

Tesla would not comment on Mark Molthan’s accident. A spokesperson emailed the I-Team saying the vehicle does not become a self-driving car in autopilot, and you must keep you hands on the wheel at all times.

UPDATE:  CBS 11 has removed the Ford logo from the original news report.  The report included a reference to self-driving cars crashing which included, among others, the Ford logo.  A Ford spokesperson contacted CBS 11 to say that Ford has not had an accident involving an autonomous vehicle.  However, according to media.ford.com and other internet sources Ford recalled certain model year 2015 Ford F-150 pickup trucks equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control technology after reportedly receiving one report of an accident that could have been related to that technology.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Comments

One Comment

  1. “…it’s the person he car hits.” Typo

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