Biker Deaths Questions Tesla’s Camera Tech Again

Critics of Tesla’s heavy reliance on camera technology for its Autopilot cruise control have been handed extra ammunition in the shape of two fatal accidents involving motorcycles at night.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now investigating the accidents, which happened in July on dark freeways. The first crash happened at 4:47 a.m. on July 7 on State Route 91, in Riverside, California. According to a California Highway Patrol statement, a Tesla Model Y was traveling east in the high occupancy lane, with a Yamaha V Star motorcycle ahead of it. The pair collided and the motorcyclist came off the Yamaha. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The second crash occurred 17 days later on July 24 in Utah. In a short statement after the collision, the Utah Department of Public Safety said the accident (pictured above with kind permission from the UDPS) happened at approximately 1:09 am as a Harley Davidson motorcycle was traveling in the high occupancy lane southbound on I-15 in the area of 15000 South near Draper. “A Tesla was behind the motorcycle, and the driver advised he had the auto-pilot setting on. The driver of the Tesla did not see the motorcyclist and collided with the back of the motorcycle, which threw the rider from the bike.” The motorcyclist, 34-year-old Landon Embry of Orem, Utah, rider sustained fatal injuries and died at the scene. The driver of the Tesla was not injured.

The similarity of both accidents have again raised concerns over Tesla’s cruise control technology, specifically the its cameras’ failings in challenging light situations. This news will reinforce other automakers’ claims that reliable ADAS must include more than just cameras, such as advanced radar and LiDAR, both largely shunned by Tesla that many in the industry suspect as a way of cutting costs of production.

These accidents also follow a series of Tesla incidents being investigated by the NHTSA. The Utah accident was the 39th since 2016 that the NHTSA has looked into where automated driving systems are suspected of being in use. Of those 30 involved Tesla vehicles with the loss of 19 lives. Earlier this year, agency data also revealed that the company had reported 273 crashes involving cars running Autopilot across the US alone between July 2021 and June 2022.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *