While Tesla’s Autopilot system is being investigated from a May 7 fatality, another Tesla driver credits Autopilot for potentially saving lives.
On July 26, a Tesla Model X driver was able to use Autopilot to guide himself to an emergency room in Missouri. He’d been feeling intense pain that felt “like a steel pole through my chest.” He would soon discover he’d been suffering from an acute pulmonary embolism, according to an article in Slate and covered in Green Car Reports.
On that day, 37-year-old attorney Joshua Neally was driving his new Tesla Model X from his law office in Springfield, Mo., to his house in Branson. He was going home to celebrate his daughter’s fourth birthday.
After calling his wife to report the intense pain, Neally agreed to go to the nearest emergency room as it would be faster than waiting for an ambulance. Neally says that he was able to program the destination into the Tesla’s Autopilot beta software.
Neally says he doesn’t remember much during the trip to the hospital. He thinks that his Model X and Autopilot navigated him through 20 miles of highway. He was able to disengage the system, exit the highway, park the SUV, and was promptly entered into the emergency room.
Neally wonders if he might have lost control of the vehicle and become a “deadly projectile when those first convulsions struck.”
Neally said that he’d been careful to pay attention behind the wheel with Autopilot engaged. He did admit that he “sometimes checks email or sends text messages on [the] phone.”
The Autopilot system continues to be the subject of a federal investigation from the fatal crash. On May 7, the driver of a Tesla Model S sedan, Joshua Brown, was killed on May 7 when his vehicle crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida.