• Mary Harrison

Self-driving cars involved in California accidents


On Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, a man from San Francisco sued General Motors for an automobile accident that occurred on Dec. 7, 2017, involving one of the company’s self-driving Chevrolet Bolts. That same day, a semi-autonomous Tesla Model S slammed into a fire truck on an interstate near Culver City, Ca.

The San Franciscan, photographer Oscar Nilsson, alleged in the lawsuit that he pulled alongside the Chevy as it was changing lanes, when it “suddenly veered” back into his lane, Mercury News reports. Nilsson, who was driving a motorcycle, hit the side of the car and was knocked down, injuring his neck and shoulders.

According to the BBC, the photographer alleges that he had to stop working due to his injuries and is suing for “damages.”

However, General Motor’s accident report claims that Nilsson was at fault. The company argues that the Bolt was “re-centering itself” in its lane after breaking off a lane change, and cite the San Francisco Police Department report stating that Nilsson “merged into [their car’s] lane before it was safe to do so,” the BBC reports.

The Tesla collision occurred at 8:30 a.m. on January 22, while a Culver City fire truck was responding to an earlier accident on Interstate 405 in California. According to Mercury News, the Model S “had been traveling 65 miles per hour” but may have slowed down slightly before hitting the back of the truck.

No firefighters were harmed, and according to Mercury News, the Model S’s motorist “showed no significant injuries.”

The unidentified driver asserts that he had Autopilot on when crash happened.

Although no one at the scene of the accident could verify the use of Autopilot, Tesla “would have such information because it monitors car and driver behavior over wireless networks,” the Los Angeles Times reports. However, according to the BBC, the car company’s only comment on this incident is that “’Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver.’”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Autopilot systems like Tesla’s would fall under Levels 2 or 3 in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s rankings for autonomous cars.

There are six levels of self-driving technology, according to Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel. In Level Zero, the driver controls all aspects of driving. Levels One and Two are when some of the car’s systems are autonomous, or can become autonomous. This includes technology such as Automatic Emergency Braking and Lane Keeping Assist. Mobileye records the differences between the two levels: “Level 1 means the car can only work one automated system at a time, while Level 2 means that multiple automated functionalities can work in tandem.”

Level Three autonomous vehicles circumstantially control all aspects of driving, like “the less-complex highway environment,” according to Mobileye. Level Four and Five self-driving cars would be “fully autonomous,” not requiring the driver (who is really now a passenger) to engage in operating the vehicle at all. According to Mobileye, “Level 5 vehicles will not have a steering wheel or other human-used vehicle controls.” The company also suggests that these final two levels could “[open] up completely new business models for transportation.”