The Dangers of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Cars in St. Louis and Beyond

tesla self driving car before car accident
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As Teslas become more popular, St. Louisans unfortunately will be involved in crashes both as drivers and as victims. If you are thinking of buying one, find out more about Tesla car crashes first. And if you are hurt in a crash involving a Tesla, learn how to get the money to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and more.     

Tesla began offering cars with Autopilot for highway driving in 2014. Autopilot technology keeps cars in the proper lane and makes lane changes. In 2019, Tesla unveiled what it calls Full Self-Driving (FSD) vehicles, cars which travel city streets using artificial intelligence. The FSD system is a $15,000 add-on to Tesla’s Autopilot product. Some say its name is misleading because the cars are not self-driving. Drivers always need to pay attention to ensure safety. 

Experts have begun to question the safety of Tesla Full Self-Driving cars after 736 crashes in just three years. Seventeen people have died in those 736 Tesla car crashes; one victim was a man driving on Autopilot in Independence, Missouri.

Disturbing News About Tesla Car Crashes  

In spring 2022, 74-year-old Terry Siegel was driving his Tesla on I-70 in Independence, Missouri, when the car stopped in the middle of the road. Two cars crashed into his car, killing him. This crash is one of hundreds caused by Teslas on Autopilot slamming on their brakes for no apparent reason. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators call the problem “phantom braking.”  

The number of fatal Tesla car crashes increased significantly in the past year. Seventeen people lost their lives, including four motorcycle riders. Before 2022, three people died in Tesla car crashes, according to the NHTSA. The agency began tallying accidents with driver assistance technology in 2021.  

Reporters from The Washington Post analyzed crashes involving Teslas over the past four years. They found the number of deaths, injuries, and wrecks has surged with the rollout of Teslas FSD system. Sales of Tesla FSD cars increased from about 12,000 to almost 400,000 in just over a year.  

The crash data does not include answers to many questions raised by safety experts, including: 

  1. Is the increase in accidents due to the number of full self-driving Teslas on the road? The NHTSA does not break out Tesla car crashes by whether they have Autopilot only or are FSD cars.  
  2. Are most of the accidents on city streets or highways? The NHTSA does not separate this information.  
  3. Why are there so many fatal accidents with Teslas compared to other cars? 
  4. Should there be restrictions on who can get behind the wheel of a self-driving car? 

The overarching question is whether the cars or the drivers are causing the crashes. Tesla warns drivers that a full self-driving car needs full driver supervision.  

Are Tesla Full Self-Driving Cars Safe? 

Tesla FSD software has been in Beta mode since its rollout in 2019. In February 2023 Tesla recalled 90% of its FSD vehicles after drivers reported cars not responding properly at intersections:  

  • Cars traveled straight through intersections while in a turn-only lane; 
  • Vehicles rolled through stop signs; 
  • The Teslas did not slow down for yellow traffic lights; and 
  • Cars did not respond to changes in speed limits. 

The carmaker updated the software and fixed those problems. It is now working on an updated version of FSD that CEO Elon Musk says will make the cars fully autonomous. 

Teslas have had safety problems since the first cars with Autopilot came out:  

  • Tesla car crashes have killed four motorcycle drivers. The NHTSA launched a special investigation into motorcycle fatalities involving Teslas after two consecutive wrecks. The FSD cars did not see the motorcycle riders.  
  • Teslas on Autopilot hit 16 emergency vehicles, killing one person, according to a report in June 2022.  
  • Drivers report sudden braking when they switch on cruise control using Autopilot. 
  • Cars made in 2019 and 2020 may slam to a stop unexpectedly. The NHTSA calls this phantom braking.  

Most Tesla car crashes happen when the vehicle does not sense a fixed object or other cars. In addition to motorcyclists, other cars, and emergency vehicles, Teslas hit pedestrians, pets, poles, deer, and trees. When Tesla began making vehicles with Autopilot, the cars had radar to detect items in their path. The company dropped the use of radar sensors. Instead, Teslas use cameras and ultrasonic sensors to avoid obstacles.  

tesla self driving car before car accident
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What to Do If You Are in a Tesla Car Crash 

What are your chances of being in a Tesla car crash in the St. Louis area? Look at the numbers. More drivers have electric cars in Illinois than in Missouri because of the state’s high gas tax.  A 2020 study reported which brand of electric vehicles people drive in different states. Illinois ranked first for the percentage of used Teslas on the road. (Missouri did not rank in the top 25 states for electric vehicles at the time of the study.)

Tesla Motors and other manufacturers of self-driving cars are paying millions of dollars to victims of crashes due to vehicle defects. If you do get into an accident involving a self-driving Tesla, contact the car accident attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch right away. We will fight for the money you deserve after the trauma of a car accident. 

Follow these steps after an accident to prepare for a possible lawsuit against Tesla Motors: 

  1. Get a police report. If the accident looks minor, do not just exchange information with the other driver to save time. Call the police. Your insurance company will ask for a police report before processing your claim. 
  1. Write down what you remember. Your attorney will use your notes to analyze what happened before, during, and after the wreck.  
  2. Contact a car accident lawyer. Missouri and Illinois both require the at-fault party’s insurance company to compensate accident victims. When a defect with a vehicle is at fault, we sue the manufacturer—Tesla Motors. We will decide if you have a good case against Tesla Motors, then work with your insurance company to get you the highest amount of personal injury compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and trauma. 

Suing a major corporation such as Tesla Motors is complicated. You do not want to go it alone. Our car accident lawyers know how to create a winning case against carmakers and will go after what you deserve. If you or someone you know has been involved in a Tesla car crash, contact us online or call us at 618-641-9189 or 314-242-2930 for a free case consultation.


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