Tesla autopilot drives sick driver to the hospital

9 Aug 2016

There has been some uplifting news for Tesla this week, as one of its customers has revealed that his life may have been saved by turning his car to autopilot mode when he suddenly became ill on the road.

The Tesla driver was confirmed as 37-year-old Joshua Neally from Missouri in the US who last month was driving his recently-purchased Tesla Model X home from work.

According to The Independent, Neally was on the open road when he suffered a sharp pain in his abdomen that he described as feeling like a steel pole was being driven through his chest.

30km in autopilot

Rather than calling an ambulance, however, he decided to turn on the car’s autopilot feature and direct it to the nearest hospital, some 30km away.

The car was able to drive itself close enough to the hospital that Neally was able to manage to drive the remaining few feet into the hospital’s carpark and check himself in.

As it turns out, he made it just in time, as it was later found that one of the arteries in his lungs had become blocked, in other words, he was suffering a pulmonary embolism.

Speaking to the local news channel KY3, Neally said semi-autonomous technology like this could help prevent accidents in the future.

“If something like that happens where I become unconscious or incapacitated while I’m driving, I’m not going to cross over the interstate and slam into somebody or slam into one of the big rock walls,” he said.

Good news for Tesla

This story is sure to come as welcome news to Tesla and Elon Musk, who has been attempting to deflect fears that its autopilot feature is potentially dangerous in its current state following the death of a man in Florida last May.

In that incident, a 40-year-old man had enabled the autopilot feature while driving on a highway, however, the driver and Tesla’s software did not pick up on a tractor trailer that had been driving perpendicular to the road.

With a “brightly lit sky” obscuring both the driver’s and the car’s vision, the vehicle collided with the trailer, killing the Tesla driver instantly.

In a blog post issued following the death of the driver, Tesla warned that its systems were not perfect, and that drivers must be ready to take control at all times when they have autopilot activated.

Tesla car in showroom image via Allen.G/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic