Current US statistics state that about 10,000 people die every year due to drunk driving. That’s roughly one fatality from a drunk driving-related crash every 52 minutes. Even in Norway, where roads are significantly safer, a report from the International Transport Forum in 2019 indicated that 8% of the country’s fatal crashes involved a drunk driver. With these numbers in mind, it is no surprise that companies like Tesla are creating software that allows vehicles to operate safely on the road, even if their human drivers are incapacitated.
Such an incident happened recently in Norway. As explained by the Eastern Police District on its official Twitter account, a 24-year-old Tesla owner ended up passing out while driving his Model S. Fortunately for the driver, the vehicle’s Autopilot system was activated, which allowed the Model S to stay in its lane without causing trouble to other drivers.
Upon detecting that its driver was unresponsive, the vehicle eventually came to a stop and engaged its hazards. The man was later attended to by emergency services. No one was injured in the incident.
The police noted that the Tesla driver, who was found unconscious in the Model S, was evidently drunk, though he denied that he was driving. Video evidence showing the Tesla owner passed out in the driver’s seat have been shared online, however. The police stated that necessary tests have been taken, and that the Tesla owner’s driver’s license has been temporarily suspended. A case has also been filed against the driver.
Such an incident could have easily been a lot worse. It is very easy for drunk drivers to harm themselves, after all, but what’s even worse is that they could very easily harm other people just as easily. These scenarios would likely not be as prevalent if vehicles are capable of safely stopping on their own once their human drivers are incapacitated.
What’s pretty remarkable was that the Autopilot system in the Model S is likely not even Tesla’s best to date. FSD Beta 9.1, which is currently being tested by a select group of Tesla owners, is far more advanced and capable than the system equipped in the Model S from Norway. Tesla’s Autopilot system attracts a lot of criticism from skeptics, but it should be noted that even its more basic features are already saving lives today. Considering the recent incident with the Model S driver in Norway, it definitely seems like advanced driver-assist systems, such as those being developed by Tesla today, are indeed crucial to making the world’s roads a safer place.