My colleague got her Peugeot 208 shredded by a speeding Model 3 — not mine! It was a somewhat puzzling head-on collision — did the Tesla help its driver to try to avoid the collision or not? We may never know.
Last year, in July, a colleague of mine at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Aarhus was inches away from being seriously injured or even killed in a head-on collision with a speeding Tesla Model 3. She was driving a black Peugeot 208 hatchback and had not seen the white Tesla Model 3 coming from the right rushing to pass 3 cars at once as she turned right into her right-hand lane. By the laws of Newtonian mechanics, impact was inevitable. The Model 3 crashed head on into the 208, slicing a good chunk of its front clean off.
Why did the Model 3 not brake automatically? There were no skid marks on the tarmac before the collision, only after. My colleague was naturally choked, but also relieved to find herself not hurt in any way, apart from mild bruises due to the forces of the impact itself and impact of airbags going off. The driver of the Model 3 was also unharmed.
Many questions were left unanswered. Although in principle my colleague was to blame for venturing into the road in the first place, the police figured circumstances were such that this incident had to be tried in court, mainly due to the possibility of reckless driving on the part of the driver of the Model 3.
And finally, one year later, my colleague was acquitted of any blame, because it was found that she had had no chance to react to a car coming towards her in its left-hand lane at very high speed. The driver of the Tesla was also acquitted because no actual speed reading was produced and the driver was technically in his right to pass the slower cars in his lane with no head on traffic at the time of commencing the maneuver. It is now a fight of who has to pay for damages between the two opposing insurance companies.
In any case, this could have been much worse. When you look at the photos I got from my colleague, you can see how the Model 3 effectively half-sliced the corner off the Peugeot.
You can see photos of the Model 3 on newsbreak.dk showing where the left rear wheel was torn off at the drive unit, indicating relatively high speed of impact. It is obvious that had the driver-side A-pillars of the cars not passed just right off each other, but left instead and thus locked in on each other, this could have been a fatal situation.
Maybe Tesla has been providing information on whether the Model 3 actually did try to avoid the collision or not in the court trials, but we can’t know that for sure. However, both drivers in this particular collision were probably surprised at just how high a speed the Tesla could achieve in such a short time and distance. Which, after rejoicing over the fact that nobody got hurt, brings me to my point in this story.
Those of us driving a Tesla Model 3 should on the one hand be very happy to be protected inside one of the safest vehicles ever mass produced, but on the other hand, we should stay extremely vigilant and careful, because this car is a silent, fast, large, and massive projectile, that apparently will slice anything to bits that blocks its trajectory, unless its silicon brains prevents this from even being possible.
Who knows, maybe after a year of software updates, and the capabilities of the newest hardware, a Tesla will continuously assess its surroundings to such a degree that it will apply emergency brakes much sooner in a case like this. In fact, on that day of July 2019, maybe the Model 3 actually did try to avoid the collision by braking and steering, thus actually saving lives by possibly correcting its trajectory a few inches. I guess we will never know.
I have experienced full stop emergency braking in the dark not even realizing what the car was braking for, maybe saving the life of a small animal that I never saw. With active safety technology being ever more present, we may be realizing just how dangerous a human can be behind the wheel.
I’m a little troubled on the prospects of all this. I mean, just look at what Tesla’s new Full Self-Driving beta version can do already. It’s mind boggling. I don’t want to die in traffic, but I don’t want give away all control just yet. But maybe it’s because I think control equals freedom? What if transport from A to B without dying equals freedom?
If you are ever in doubt who has the conclusive responsibility of safely maneuvering your vehicle, look no further than right in front of you — if there is a steering wheel attached right there, then you must carry the heavy burden of any mishap. Drive safely.