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Are self-driving cars really safe?

For years, Illinois drivers and others across the nation have dreamed of owning a car that will drive them wherever they need or want to go all by itself. If you are one of those people, your dream is still quite far from a reality. While a few auto manufacturers such as Tesla produce partially self-driving cars, their safety record is dubious at best.

As reported by Wired, a Tesla Model X crashed just two months ago, killing its driver when the car careened into a highway divider. The driver had engaged the Autopilot feature that is supposed to keep the car within its lane lines and safely away from other vehicles on the road.

This was the second time in less than two years that the Tesla Autopilot failed. In May, 2016, a Tesla Model S Autopilot failed to stop the vehicle in which it was installed from crashing into a truck that unexpectedly turned in front of it. That driver, too, received fatal injuries.

Tesla versus the NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board investigates all serious traffic accidents in the U.S. Tesla joined the NTSB investigation of the latest fatal crash, but the two organizations soon parted ways. Whereas the NTSB moves slowly in its investigations, Tesla more or less immediately blamed the crash on driver error, claiming that logs and surveillance systems in the Tesla Model X prove that the driver’s hands not only were off the wheel prior to the accident, but that he took no evasive action to prevent the crash.

Admittedly, Tesla’s literature specifically warns drivers that they must keep their hands on the wheel even while Autopilot is on and constantly monitor its performance, as well as road traffic. Some experts wonder if all human beings are even capable of driving safely, with or without automotive computer assistance. Driver error accounts for nearly 40,000 vehicle crash deaths each year, and distracted driving remains a national problem.

Bear all this in mind if and when you decide to buy a Tesla or any other partially self-driving car. No matter how good the technology, you have the ultimate responsibility for safe driving. This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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