A Model X driver chose Tesla’s Autopilot system over an ambulance ride after a sharp chest pain hit him while on the road home July 26.
His decision to program the nearest hospital into his navigation system instead of calling 911 is controversial, given the recent spat of crashes involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system–however, it also opens the door for dialogue about the potential benefits of Autopilot when a driver is in duress.
Model X owner Joshua Neally, a lawyer, likely understood the legal implications of deviating from Tesla’s express instructions to keep both hands on the wheel and give full attention to the road while using Autopilot.
But given the circumstances, Neally figured he could reach the hospital quicker using Autopilot, and figured that was his best bet–despite the potential legal, and physical consequences.
As Slate magazine reports, Neally remembers calling his wife while experiencing the chest and abdominal pain and agreeing that he should go to the hospital. That’s where his memory goes blank–he doesn’t remember much of the drive after that.
After reaching the emergency room, Neally manually steered the Model X into a parking space and got himself to a triage nurse. Doctors later explained that he had had a pulmonary embolism–a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that certainly warranted his trip to the hospital.
How he got to the hospital remains questionable. “I’m not a daredevil,” said Neally, even though he chose the riskier option to get himself to medical care.
In today’s ambulances, modern-day paramedics virtually bring the emergency room to you, acting as an extension of an emergency physician’s hand. Advanced medical aid could’ve been rendered to Neally en route to the hospital, offering a better chance of survival had his condition significantly worsened.
Beyond the benefit of having a paramedic at his side, he also would’ve side-stepped the potentially fatal hazard he brought to fellow motorists as his Tesla headed to the hospital with no one at the helm.
Will there be a time when Neally’s actions are considered reasonable? Perhaps once Autopilot technology has passed its beta-phase of testing and has met all standards for road safety–and the nearest ambulance is unable to respond, or too far away to assist in time.