A New Jersey mom was out on a grocery run when a driverless vehicle caused the scare of a lifetime. The pregnant mom was loading her groceries into her car and was about to strap her toddler into a car seat when a car without a driver in the driver’s seat began to approach.
She said she noticed the vehicle out of the corner of her eye as she loaded up in a Sickles parking lot in Red Bank. The woman who asked to be identified as “NU” expected the vehicle to come to a stop, but it just kept coming.
The Mom Says There Were Few Others Around Her in the Parking Lot Before a Driverless Car Approached.
“There were very few cars in the parking lot because it was the end of the day,” NU told Patch. “There was one car next to us and I looked, but the lights weren’t on.”
“I was putting my toddler in the backseat and I almost got hit by a Tesla which was right next to us. It’s so quiet, I didn’t even hear it start up. I just saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I moved my car door back. Thankfully my daughter was already in the car at this point, because I don’t know what would’ve happened if she was still next to me. Yeah, we were nearly hit.”
The mom was shocked when she realized the driverless car did not contain anyone in the driver’s seat. She watched as the Tesla proceeded to pick up its driver from the curb at the entrance of Sickles store.
“The car’s owner wasn’t even outside when this happened,” NU explained to Patch. “I’m six months pregnant, so I couldn’t even run across the parking lot to speak with them.”
Instead of injuring herself and to avoid a physical confrontation, the mom turned to a local Facebook group to warn others about the driverless car by telling her story.
“I understand what the function is and I understand that it’s supposed to be safe but I also know that there’s been a lot of accidents,” NU wrote. “I don’t know if the [car] would’ve activated brakes, or if it would’ve recognized my toddler had she been next to me a second earlier. Would it have stopped on a dime, or would it have hit the door into me? I don’t know, but I don’t think it was very safe for somebody to summon it without being in the car.”
Red Bank Police Chief Darren McConnell responded to requests for comment. He explained that his community has not enacted any ordinances in regards to self-driving vehicles. “Typically, that kind of legislation is passed at the state level,” he told Patch.
Tesla was also asked for a response, but they declined. A disclaimer on the company’s website says, “All Tesla vehicles have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver,” and “a driver can override any of autopilot’s features at any time by steering, applying the brakes, or using the cruise control.”
The incident follows a recent move by Tesla that saw several unofficial test drivers fired from the company. The drivers allegedly “did not pay sufficient attention to the road” while testing its “full self-driving” software,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Friday.
The incident in the Sickles parking lot could be the first report of a Tesla vehicle going rogue. But, it is not the first dangerous event involving driverless cars. In California, a man was killed in 2018 while a vehicle was on autopilot. Two years prior a Navy Seal was killed while watching a Harry Potter film after the car drove into the broadside of a tractor-trailer.
Availability varies by region due to regulatory approval delays and/or Tesla internal development & testing.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2021
Note: word “Beta” is used to reduce complacency in usage & set expectations appropriately. All software is first tested internally by Tesla simulation & QA drive teams.
NU told Patch that she just wants people to be aware of the dangers of these vehicles as she can personally attest that these incidents do happen. According to the mom, there is currently no legislation applicable to driverless cars and she would local officials in New Jersey to take up the issue.
“I think there should be legislation that says people should be in the car and actively engaged because if you’re not actively engaging, that can be extremely dangerous,” NU explained.
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“I think the takeaway is to be a responsible driver if you have this car,” the mom continued. “Be aware of your surroundings, at least physically be there – you have to be careful because no machine is infallible. There’s always room for error, that’s just being human.”
We must agree that action should be taken as regulation of these new products could potentially save lives.
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