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Screenshot from video of the incident by Draper Younce

Autonomous Vehicles

Tesla Model 3 Acceleration May Have Saved Owner From Carjacker

A recent carjacking attempt in Jacksonville, Florida, shows us that the quick acceleration electric vehicles give isn’t just a fun feature. It might also save your life.

Draper Younce, a Naval officer in Jacksonville, got a nasty surprise in a parking lot. A man ran from around the side of an apartment building and pointed a handgun at him while he was sitting in his Tesla Model 3 talking on his phone.

“The first thing I said was, ‘no, man, I’m not getting out of the car,'” Younce told FOX Business. “And the second thing I said … ‘this is a Tesla, you can’t steal a Tesla.'”

What the carjacker didn’t know was that the whole thing was caught on the vehicle’s 8 cameras. While the cameras were originally added to Tesla vehicles for eventual self-driving, they also serve as dashcams and security cameras. With two cameras per side, as well as front and rear cameras, the car can record everything that happens around it, including the actions of criminals.

Younce told media outlets (including Action News Jax, which made the video above) that he waited for the right moment to escape and the car’s unique features gave him a chance to do it. The robber tried to pull the car’s flush doorhandle, and the brief moment of confusion at that distracted him for just a moment. That’s when Younce nailed the skinny pedal. The vehicle’s “hold” feature meant he didn’t even have to put it in “D.” He could just go.

The robber did manage to get one shot off, striking the Model 3’s B-pillar. The shot only narrowly missed striking Younce himself. At that point, footage from the vehicle’s rear camera shows the carjacker fleeing the scene. Younce had his Model 3 set up to save a recording when he honked the horn, and he did that as soon as he was safe.

Younce is offering a cash reward and hopes that by sharing his footage, someone can identify the robber. More information is available on his Twitter feed.

Things We Can Learn From This

First off, it’s clear that a Tesla’s acceleration is for more than just fun. In the past, Teslas have escaped wrecks on video, and barely escaped where a gas-powered car would have been crushed. In this case, the quick acceleration and hold function worked together to allow the driver to blast away from the attacker. In the hands of an irresponsible driver, that power can hurt people, but in the hands of a good person, it can avert disaster.

We don’t know exactly what version of the car Younce had, but a “dual motor” emblem does appear in the Florida news station’s video. Undoubtedly, that extra “oomph” helped get the car out of the line of fire just a little faster, and probably made the difference between life and death.

Also, the flush doorhandles are obviously doing more than just looking cool. When it’s harder for a criminal to grip the door, it’s harder for them to gain unauthorized access. It also gave the man a chance to get away.

Another great thing is that the car has the dashcam mode for the cameras. While things like dashcam mode and sentry mode might have seemed like silly features back when they first came out, they’ve done a lot of serious good since then. Many vandals, thieves, and road ragers have been brought to justice after the cameras caught them doing bad things.

It would certainly be better for people to not attack a Tesla driver or their car, but hopefully as more people get a clue and figure out that Teslas are rolling security bots, they’ll think twice before doing that. The cameras alone could eventually lead to making the drivers much safer than in other cars.

I’m going to switch from EV-writer mode to self defense instructor mode for a bit here.

First off, situational awareness is key. The sooner you see someone advancing on you with a gun, the sooner you can take action. In this case, seeing the man approaching in the mirror could have led to the owner launching away sooner and being harder to hit. By not seeing the carjacker until he was already in his face, the owner was only able to narrowly avoid being hit. The situation could have been much worse had the shot gone just a few inches to the right.

I know this is really hard to do in daily life, but even a split second of advantage can make a big difference.

Second, think about “tactical parking.” If you are the kind of person who would sit with your blinker on and wait several minutes while someone unloads their groceries just to get a few spaces closer to the store, you need to get out of that habit. The way that almost everyone else mocks you for acting that way should be enough, but it also puts you in a position where you aren’t really choosing your parking space. Being further out in the lot where thieves have fewer places to hide is great. Having your car in a position where you can quickly drive away like Younce did is even better.

Key thing here: don’t box yourself in, even if you have to back into a space. It’s worth it.

In a similar piece over at The Truth About Guns, I go into a lot more depth about the self-defense side of things. If you’re into that kind of thing, be sure to check the story out over there.

Buying an electric car that can launch away from danger also doesn’t hurt. Hopefully as more vehicles not only go electric, but have cameras that capture every move a carjacker makes, they’ll think twice before trying it. The best potential attack there is would be the one you never know about. Criminals are always looking for easy money, and aren’t looking for a fight or a chance to go to prison. Buying a Tesla could literally save your life without you ever knowing that it did.

Featured image: Screenshot from video of the incident by Draper Younce

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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