Thursday, July 18, 2024

Tesla Driver Charged with Homicide After Killing Motorcyclist Using Autopilot Mode

A 28-year-old motorcyclist has died after being rear-ended by a Tesla driver who was using the vehicle’s advanced autopilot feature.

According to the Washington State Patrol, the incident happened at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Friday in Maltby, Washington.

The driver of the Tesla Model S, later identified as 56-year-old Carl Hunter, had allegedly activated the advanced driver assist system, before browsing on his phone.

jeffrey nissen
Jeffrey Nissen was killed after being hit by a Tesla on ‘autopilot’

The vehicle then accelerated and rear-ended the motorcycle in front of him. The impact flung the motorcyclist, Jeffrey Nissen, from the bike to the ground, before he was run over by the electric car. When first responders arrived, he was still pinned underneath the vehicle, where he ultimately died.

The Tesla driver admitted to police that he ‘put [his] trust in his vehicle’ and was not paying attention to the road while using the autopilot feature. He said it wasn’t until his car lurched forward and there was a loud bang that he realized what was happening.

While the driver was not impaired by alcohol or drugs (he had passed blood and field tests), he told police he had consumed an alcoholic beverage before driving the vehicle.

tesla crash According to local news reports, the Tesla driver was using the ‘Autopilot’ feature as opposed to the ‘Full Self-Driving system, the latter of which requires the driver to pay attention to the road to remain active. The ‘Autopilot’ system, which combines cruise control with lane keep assist, on the other hand, does not require the driver to keep their eyes up on the road.

This is not the first time that a Tesla on ‘autopilot’ has run over a motorcyclist. In October 2022, a Utah resident was killed after a Tesla on ‘autopilot’ crashed into the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Still, the company continues to advertise its ‘full self-driving features’. Just recently, it offered owners of Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y vehicles a 30-day free trial of the ‘autopilot’ system. According to the description on its website, the system will ‘navigate around other cars and objects, make lane changes, make turns, and choose the appropriate forks for your route.’

The company does recommend, however, that drivers stay attentive while using the system.

The driver was charged with Vehicular Homicide and booked into a Snohomish County Prison. He posted a $100,000 bail on Sunday night and was released from jars.

The victim, Jeff Nissen, was described by his sister, Jenessa, as a ‘loving person’ who ‘loved his nieces and nephews’. According to Jenessa, he would have turned 29 in June.

jeffreys siblings
Jeffrey’s siblings described him as a loving person who doted on his nieces and nephews

Jeffrey’s brother, Matthew, said he loved spending time with his family and that they had gotten into motorcycles six years ago.

Matthew was also the first person to notice that something had happened after realizing Jeffrey’s location hadn’t changed for over an hour.

Their family said they hope drivers will pay attention to the road and watch out for people on bikes this upcoming summer, regardless of the vehicle they’re driving, as ‘they’re putting everyone’s lives into their hands’ on the road.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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