Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) received backlash after a test drive gone wrong resulted in the death of a Model S driver early this year, affecting consumer confidence to autonomous driving. The accident occurred when Tesla’s self-driving feature failed to activate and was unable to distinguish an 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the Florida highway against a bright sky. The Tesla S crashed on the freeway killing its driver, Joshua Brown, 40. Now, the same feature just saved the life of a Missouri man who suffered from a pulmonary embolism while on the road.
In late July, Springville lawyer Joshua Neally was driving home when he turned on the autopilot feature of his week-old Tesla X as he enters the highway. During the drive, he felt “the most excruciating pain [he’s] ever had,” in his chest. Neally was not aware that he just suffered a pulmonary embolism. The condition could’ve been fatal.
“It was kinda getting scary. I called my wife and just said ‘something’s wrong’ and I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping, kind of hyperventilating.” By the time Neally arrived at the hospital, he was writhing in pain. “I just knew I had to get there, to the ER,” says Neally.
After calling his wife, he let his Tesla X drive the car to the nearest hospital, which was miles away. He arrived safely to the hospital and checked himself into the emergency room.
In an interview, Neally said he should’ve probably pulled over and called an ambulance rather than continue driving to the hospital on autopilot. Neally said he decided against pulling over when the self-driving feature kept the vehicle on the right lane.
This was not the first time Tesla’s autopilot feature saved a life. There were instances wherein the vehicles stopped for pedestrians or where the car moved out of the way of another vehicle.
Tesla’s autopilot feature is designed to prevent accidents. But despite saving lives, the self-driving feature remains a controversial topic among consumers, particularly those who do not trust AI to drive vehicles after the much-publicized crash in Florida.
For his part, Neally said that at that time, he had to trust his car for help in case he fell unconscious while driving.
“I’m very thankful I had it for this experience,” Neally says he doesn’t want to imagine what might have happened if he’d been in a car that didn’t have the autopilot feature.
“If something like that happens where I become unconscious or incapacitated while I’m driving, I’m not going to cross over the interstate and slam into somebody or slam into one of the big rock walls.” He pointed out that had he fallen unconscious, his smart car would’ve pulled over on the side of the road for safety.
Now Neally says he’s recovered and is receiving treatment.
“It’s not going to be perfect, there’s no technology that’s perfect, but I think the measure is that it’s better and safer.”
Tesla Stock Price
Tesla Motors was last trading Monday at $229.15, down 0.62% from Friday and well off its $271.57 52-week high. The stock has continued its descent this year with a loss of 4.68%. On a year-over-year basis the issue is down nearly 6%.
Tesla’s market capitalization has swelled to $33 billion, more than half that of General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F). Trading at a multiple of 109x next year’s estimated earnings, the name currently has 5 analysts that rate it a ‘Buy’ versus 8 rating it a ‘Hold’. Four analysts rate it a ‘Sell’. TSLA has a median Street price target of $231.50.