Tesla Model 3 Hit By Falling Rock — #CleanTechnica Interview

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Jade Insko was driving his Tesla Model 3 in Washington state when a 37-pound rock fell from above and struck his windshield. It plunged through the shattered and damaged glass and fell into the passenger seat. Fortunately, it did not hit Insko, but tiny pieces of glass did enter his eyes and lungs. Later, he received medical attention and his health is good now. Insko generously agreed to answer some questions for CleanTechnica.

1. Were you injured in the accident?

The rock hit the windshield at such a high velocity the glass was broken into tiny sharp particles. I had cuts on my left hand and shards of glass in my eyes, in my throat and I inhaled some too. At this point, I think I am completely healed, just hoping there are no long-term effects from the tiny bits of glass in my lungs.

2. Where did the rock come from?

The rock fell from a cliff on the opposite side of the road.

3. How fast were you driving and what were the conditions like?

I was going about 40–45 mph. This particular stretch of roadway is quite narrow and has some subtle curves. I had just taken the car off Autopilot. It was just starting to get light outside and was gently raining.

4. Were you shocked at first, and what did you do?

I was completely shocked. I slammed on my brakes and came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. I immediately realized I had been struck by falling debris. Then, I was worried I could be hit from behind if I didn’t get off the roadway. I turned on my hazard lights and crept the car forward until I thought I could see a wide spot on the shoulder to pull off. The steering wheel was smashed down into my lap and I could barely see because of the glass in my eyes and the smashed windshield. It wasn’t until after I was pulled over that I noticed the rock had come to rest in the passenger seat beside me. In retrospect, I am amazed the car still functioned after taking such a blow to an area where there are sensitive electronics.

5. Did you call police for medical attention?

As I was pulling onto the shoulder a truck approached from behind and slowly passed me. The driver recognized I was in trouble and thankfully pulled over to assist. He called 911 for help. Since I did not have life-threatening injuries, the police were dispatched. Afterwards, my wife took me to the emergency room to have glass removed from my eyes.

6. How long have you had your Model 3, and other than the rock flying through the windshield, how has your experience been so far?

I took delivery of my Model 3 on March 30, 2018, exactly one day short of two years since I had reserved it. When I received it, there were less than 13,000 Model 3’s on the road. After waiting so long to get my car and also hearing the bad press surrounding build quality, I wondered if I might end up with some buyer’s remorse. To the contrary, I was delighted by all of the high quality engineering and attention to detail. The simple, sophisticated elegance was quite intuitive. At its core, the Model 3 is very fun to drive with its instant torque and superb handling. However, sometimes driving is simply about getting from point A to point B, often with heavy traffic. For that, Enhanced Autopilot is the ultimate driving companion. It isn’t perfect yet, but it is really, really good. It is far better than any other “driver-assist” in any other vehicle I have driven. It completely removes the stress of dense traffic driving by taking care of all of the steering, braking and acceleration. I was lucky to drive over 10,000 miles before the car was struck by the rock. I am missing my Model 3.

7. Why did you choose the Model 3 over other options?

Until Tesla, it seemed every auto manufacturer who came to market with an EV or other fuel-efficient ICE [gasoline/diesel vehicle] or BEV [fully electric vehicle] had decided their customers wanted something plain or even ugly. It also seemed they assumed performance was not at all important. Tesla embraced the idea that EVs are better than ICE vehicles in every way, not just something to be looked at as an economical choice to help save the planet. Tesla knew they could offer both. After they released the S & X, I knew they would have a loyal customer when they finally offered a car in my price range.

8. Will you drive again in the area where the accident took place?

I will not drive that stretch of roadway again until sufficient safeguards are put in place. Just today, one of my customers wrote to let me know they had been struck by two small rocks from the same cliff this past weekend. They did not have nearly as much damage to the car, but still had damage all the same. WSDOT really needs to do something. Fast! I fear someone is going to die if they don’t act soon. 

9. Was the damage only to the windshield, and has it been replaced yet?

There is a large cross-bar which extends clear across the car under the dashboard assembly. It was bent down several inches. Also, there is a large bracket which secures the steering column to the cross-bar. That bracket was broken in 5 places. The MCU was twisted on its mount. The auto body shop has been disassembling the car for over a week, trying to determine what all needs to be replaced. The extent of the damage is so severe, it is a possibility the car might be totaled. I was told the cross-bar is a fairly unique feature. If it hadn’t been there, I would have certainly been severely injured at a minimum.

10. What do you most and least like about the Model 3 so far?

I like getting up in the morning and knowing I can travel nearly 300 miles without a care about needing more fuel. Since I am now back in an ICE car, it has been a hard adjustment to return to watching the gas gauge and inconveniently stopping to fill up once or twice a week.

I like the Enhanced Autopilot very much. When I am not just driving for fun, it is almost always engaged. It is a game changer. The stereo system is quite good and the interior is very comfortable and spacious. As mentioned above, the torque and handling are wonderful.

The OTA [over-the-air] updates are amazing! A car that gets better over time? Ridiculously awesome!!

If I were to change anything at all, it would be to add cooled seats (because they are so cool). Otherwise, I am at a loss.

Images by Jade Insko

Editor’s note: Again, much thanks to Jade for the interview, and it is nice that this story turned out as well as it did.

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JakeRsol

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